Having a purpose in life has always been an important factor in the lives of human beings. But new research indicates feeling one’s life is meaningful may even contribute to brain health.
Feeling like you have a purpose in life can increase optimism and reduce depression while at the same time helping the ability to recover from tragic situations-such as a death in the family. But beyond the psychological benefits of feeling there is meaning in life, as a person ages, this belief could actually help to reduce physical decline, lower incidence of stroke, and yes, even lower the risks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Patricia Boyle PhD, associate professor of behavior sciences at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center conducted a study with 450 men and women who were on average 84 years old. Psych exams of those who felt a true meaning and purpose in their lives revealed were actually at lower risk of stroke.
According to Boyle; “Mental health, in particular positive psychological factors such as having a purpose in life, are emerging as very potent determinants of health outcomes.”
This study found that those who live purposefully ended up adopting a healthier lifestyle including a regular exercise routing and balanced diet, as well as effective stress management-improving overall brain and heart health. Another finding of the study concluded that people with a high level of psychological well-being had lower cortisol levels as well as lower levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine-hormones associated with inflammation, anxiety and high blood pressure.
Caregivers can be inspired about the fact that adopting an attitude of attaching meaning and purpose to the job of caring for their loved one can actually lead to an increase in heart and brain health.
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