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Being calm and relaxed 'may lower dementia risk'

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Dementia may be more of a risk for people who are frequently anxious and shy, new research suggests.

The personalities and lifestyles of 506 older people were assessed and monitored for six years by scientists, who found that during that time 144 developed Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

Being easily stressed and socially isolated also appeared to increase the chances of mental decline, whereas the opposite was found with outgoing, calm people, the study showed.

Study leader Dr Hui-Xin Wang, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said: ‘In the past, studies have shown that chronic distress can affect parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, possibly leading to dementia, but our findings suggest that having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia even further.’

A questionnaire designed to see how extrovert, emotionally stable, calm, negative or anxious volunteers were also examined how much they got involved in leisure or social activities.

The journal Neurology published the results, which showed that people who were calm and relaxed were 50% less likely to develop dementia than those who were isolated and easily stressed.

Dr Hui-Xin Wang added: ‘The good news is, lifestyle factors can be modified as opposed to genetic factors which cannot be controlled. But these are early results, so how exactly mental attitude influences risk for dementia is not clear.’

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