Over the last few decades, we’ve learned a lot about what’s happening in the brains of those with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Some discoveries are more inspiring than others. This is one such jewel.
Rush University Medical Center research has unveiled a fascinating link between a person’s sense of purpose and cognitive health. Researchers define purposeful living as having a sense of direction and purpose in life, feeling good when thinking about past accomplishments, having hope, and wanting to accomplish more goals in the future.
Those with the highest sense of life purpose were about 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in comparison to participants with the lowest scores.
One reason that purpose may lead to greater health is the effect that happiness and fulfillment can have on stress levels. Chronic stress is directly linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline.
Chronic stress can not only reduce immune function but also can negatively affect blood sugar regulation, both factors that increase one’s risk of cognitive decline.
However, the biggest effect of stress as it relates to brain function is probably general inflammation, a condition that causes ongoing damage to cells and tissues.
Living with passion and purpose may also reduce the risk of chronic or recurrent depression, another risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. So, if you’re feeling a little lackluster about life, consider filling your plate with purpose. These 4 purposeful pointers can protect your brain and increase your intention.
Volunteering is linked to better physical and mental health. Researchers believe this is due to personality traits associated with volunteering, not the act of volunteering itself.
2. Support something you believe in
The simple act of donating is connected to better health. So, if you have the ability and a cause that you believe in, you and your cause can reap the rewards.
3. Learn a new skill
Learning a new skill or a second language is a great way to stave off cognitive decline and keep your brain functioning at top speed.
4. Teach your skills to others
Do you have an expertise or specialty? Boost its power by sharing it with others. Interaction and increasing socialization are correlated to healthier brains and greater longevity. If you have a skill that you can share with others, they benefit from you, and you win too.
Pumping up your sense of purpose is not the only thing you can do to protect your brain, but it’s a great start. Healthy habits support a vibrant brain; however, underlying and unknown factors could be putting your cognitive health at risk, which is why I recommend a thorough risk assessment every few years. Using comprehensive screening tools, I assess each of my patient’s brain function and cognitive risk. With that information at our fingertips, we can create a powerful plan to support optimal brain function and longevity.