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Researchers say the results are in line with the only previous study to look at the relationship between being prone to distress or worry and Alzheimer's disease. That study, involving a group of clergy members, also suggested that constant worry increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers say longer-term studies are needed to fully understand the nature of this relationship.

Worry Raises Alzheimer's Risks

In the latest study, which appears in the Jan. 25 issue of Neurology, researchers interviewed more than 1,000 healthy older adults in Chicago about their tendencies to worry and feel distressed. They examined the study participants three to six years later to see if they developed Alzheimer's disease.

During the follow-up period, 170 people developed Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found that people who were prone to distress and worry were 2.4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than someone who was not prone to worry.

Specifically, the study showed that each point on the distress-proneness scale increased the odds of having Alzheimer's disease by 6%.

 

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 Worrywarts May Be Prone to Alzheimer's

 Symptoms of depression have also been associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease, but when researchers took these worry-related symptoms into account the association between worry and Alzheimer's disease remained strong.

However, the link between worry and Alzheimer's disease was less robust among African-Americans. Researchers say older African-Americans may have developed personal or social traits that help reduce psychological distress or its negative effects on health, but more study is needed to explain this.

Research shows walking might ward off Alzheimer's

New findings walking regularly at age 70 and beyond can help keep the mind sharp.

Walking regularly at age 70 and beyond can help keep the mind sharp and ward off Alzheimer's disease, according to research suggesting that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain.

Some previous studies found that physical activity might stave off mental decline. But the new findings, contained in two studies, show that the activity does not have to be super strenuous.

In more good news for older people, another study suggests that the benefits of a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, olive oil and fruits and vegetables extend into old age, increasing longevity even in men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

"This study is important because it is often thought that diet, alcohol, physical activity and smoking doesn't matter anymore in old age," said nutrition researcher Kim Knoops of The Netherlands' Wageningen University, the lead author.

One study, involving 2,257 retired men ages 71 to 93, found that those who walked less than a quarter-mile a day were almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia as men who walked more than two miles daily.

A study of 16,466 female nurses ages 70 to 81 found that even women who walked a leisurely 1 hours a week did better on tests of mental function than less active women.

"We were a bit surprised that something so modest as walking would be associated with apparent cognitive benefits. That was really the surprise," said Jennifer Weuve, a Harvard School of Public Health researcher who led the nurses study.

Previous studies have linked mental exercise, such as crossword puzzles and reading, with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's. The new research shows physical exercise helps, too.

 

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