Relax with Friends, Drink Coffee & Avoid Alzheimer's

In the Comfort Life Spotlight

Like to sit around the kitchen table, relaxing and drinking coffee with friends? Then you may have a lower risk of developing dementia, according to results from two concurrent but essentially unrelated studies released by Swedish scientists. One study released by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm examined the effects of coffee consumption, while another (from a different team at the same Institute) showed the positive effects of two personality and lifestyle traits.

One study followed 506 healthy seniors who had completed a survey assessing their personality and lifestyle. The group was followed for six years, during which time 144 of them developed dementia.

Numerous previous studies had focused on stress levels or social aspects separately, but the findings of this study indicated "that having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia," according to lead scientist with the Institute, Hui-Xin Wang . Participants who showed negative attitudes and a higher degree of neuroticism along with introversion were more likely to fall prey to dementia.

Although the study was not intended to determine the exact physiological causes or effects, Dr. Wang noted that high levels of stress appear to damage the brain’s hippocampus. This "may exacerbate cognitive deficits in old age and contribute to the development of dementia."

While Dr. Wang noted that personality change is difficult, focusing one’s personality or tendencies on extroversion and/or optimism and calmness can buffer negative effects of certain personality traits on the risk of dementia.

In a study released around the same time, a team of researchers had tracked coffee consumption of 1,409 middle-aged men and women for an average of 12 years. During the period of study, 61 participants developed dementia, including 48 with Alzheimer’s disease. Participants who drank three to five cups of coffee per day were found to be 65% less likely to develop dementia compared to participants who drank two cups of coffee or less per day.

Despite the fact that some people associate high caffeine consumption with a stressful lifestyle, the studies are not necessarily contradictory, note scientists. Coffee can keep the mind active and is not always consumed to the degree that it creates stress.

And Dr. Miia Kivipelto, lead author of the second study, is not yet promoting coffees as "preventative medicine." She said, "This is an observational study. We have no evidence that for people who are not drinking coffee, taking up drinking will have a protective effect."

She also listed several possible reasons why coffee may be a factor in the reduction of risk for dementia: earlier studies have linked coffee consumption with a decreased risk of type 2 Diabetes, associated with the risk of dementia. Coffee may also act as antioxidant, reducing vascular disk factors for dementia. Finally, animal studies show that caffeine consumption reduces the formation of one hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid plaques in the brain.

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