October 01, 2007
Conscientious Goal Oriented People Get Less Alzheimer's Disease?

Will trying to make yourself more conscientious slow your brain's aging? Or is conscientiousness a genetically caused trait? What is the mechanism fort this effect?

Individuals who are more conscientious—in other words, those with a tendency to be self-disciplined, scrupulous and purposeful—appear less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Conscientiousness refers to a person’s tendency to control impulses and be goal-directed, and is also known as will, work and dependability, according to background information in the article. It has been associated with a wide range of mental and physical disorders, disability and death, suggesting it may be important for maintaining overall health.

Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and colleagues studied 997 older Catholic nuns, priests and brothers who did not have dementia when the study began in 1994. Participants underwent evaluations that included medical history, neurologic examinations and cognitive testing. Conscientiousness was measured with a 12-item inventory, where participants rated agreement with each item (for example, “I am a productive person who always gets the job done”) on a scale of one to five. Scores ranged from zero to 48, with higher scores indicating more conscientiousness. The researchers conducted follow-up examinations annually through 2006, with an average of 7.9 evaluations per person.

The participants had an average conscientiousness score of 34 out of 48. Through a maximum of 12 years of follow-up, 176 individuals developed Alzheimer’s disease. Those who had conscientiousness scores in the 90th percentile (40 points) or higher had an 89 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those whose scores ranked in the 10th percentile (28 points) or lower. Controlling for known Alzheimer’s disease risk factors did not substantially change these results. Conscientiousness also was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline and a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment, a condition that may precede Alzheimer’s disease.

Maybe conscientious people take better care of themselves and eat better food. The Mediterranean diet appears to lower Alzheimer's risk for example. So do conscientious driven people adopt the best dietary advice at a higher rate than do less conscientious and less goal-oriented people? Seems highly plausible.

Or maybe being driven they stimulate their minds harder their entire lives. build up more neurons, and therefore have more cognitive reserves to lose before the symptoms of Alzheimer's becomes apparent.

Or maybe the genetic variants that make people driven also somehow protect the body against brain aging?

What is the most important thing to know about Alzheimer's Disease? You don't want to get it and you don't want anyone you care about to get it either. You want cures for it sooner rather than later. We should try to stop and reverse brain aging.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 October 01 09:30 PM  Brain Alzheimers Disease

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