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Friday, March 24, 2017
Study suggests religious life helps ward off Alzheimer's
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¬†A study of nearly 1,000 Catholic nuns, priests and monks over 12 years has revealed that those most conscientious in following their duties had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. The study, lead by Dr Robert Wilson, from Rush University in Chicago, followed a group of nuns, monks and priests from across the United States. They were chosen as a group as they were considered more likely to be willing to take part in a study that might help others in the future, but not themselves. As well as assessing their medical well-being, the researchers also asked the group to rate themselves on areas such as self- discipline, reliability and being hard- working. Dr Wilson, said that during the study, 176 people developed Alzheimer's. But those with the highest scores for conscientiousness appeared to have a lower risk than lazier counterparts. Nuns, priests and monks with scores in the top 10 per cent had an 89 per cent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than those with scores in the lowest 10 per cent. The researchers, writing in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, also found that conscientiousness was associated with a slower rate of mental decline. But an examination of 324 brains of those who died during the study did not find any link between conscientiousness and signs of the disease. The brains of the conscientious had similar levels of plaques and tangles which build up and cause Alzheimer's as those of the less conscientious. Dr Wilson said this was not unexpected. He said the trait of being conscientious may just help the brain cope better with the physical causes of Alzheimer's. One reason for the link between being conscientious and a lower risk of Alzheimer's may be that people who are hard-working experience educational and career success, which are linked to a lower risk of the disease. The researchers said that being conscientious has also been linked to resilience and to coping with difficulties. Dr Wilson said that, by working hard and being conscientious, people might reduce their risk of Alzheimer's. However, Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, urged caution, saying: "It is important to remember that this study only looked at one group of people and may not translate to the whole population." Establishing how conscientious a monk, nun or priest is involved detailed questioning. Group members were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 on statements such as: ∑ I keep my belongings clean and neat. ∑ I work hard to accomplish my goals. ∑ I strive for excellence in everything I do.
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