Can Negative Emotions Lead to Dementia?
For years I wondered about the early mental decline of my grandmother which, unfortunately, was repeated in my mother’s life. Would I succumb to their same fate? Was dementia 100% genetically predestined?
Thankfully, while researching for my book, Get Healthy for Heaven’s Sake, I came across numerous studies which began to put my mind at ease. Yes, it is true that there is a genetic component to dementia, but even greater determining factor is lifestyle habits—much of which we have control over.
Not surprisingly, sustaining a healthy diet and participating in regular exercise is a large part of steering clear of dementia in your third trimester of life. Yet the real eye-opener for me was when I discovered the strong connection between one’s emotional wellbeing and the onset/prevalence of dementia.
You see, both my grandmother and my mother shared similar emotional “traits”. They struggled with lifelong depression and anxiety, they kept to themselves—having limited social contacts or sustained friendships, neither volunteered in their communities or made it “their business” to help the less fortunate or a neighbor in need. In a word, they were emotionally and socially barren.
Because studies have shown such correlations as the risk for dementia rising two-fold for those who are chronically depressed, it is critical for each of us strive to eliminate chronic depression, stress, and anxiety for our “menu” of emotions. The presence of these harmful emotions not only suppress our brain’s production of “brain cell fertilizer” (brain derived neurotrophic factor) but also prompt our bodies to produce excessive epinephrine and dopamine which cause our brain cells to “misfire”. Chronic stress has also been found to actually decrease brain mass (white matter) in the areas of the brain known to govern focus, concentration, and memory!
Additionally, scientific research has demonstrated just how beneficial it is to be involved in personal relationships and in service to others. When we are, our bodies produce sufficient quantities of endorphins and serotonin which our brains need to maintain chemical health.
Given my family’s history, this was all the information I needed to convince me to keep a watchful eye on my own emotions and to make sure I remain socially connected!