How Well Will You Age? It Might Depend On How You Actually Feel About Aging, Says Study

There are always new articles coming out on how to prevent aging, but what if I told you that the secret wasn't creams or pills? As it turns out, it might have more to do with your perception of aging: A new study found that those who believed negative stereotypes about the elderly were more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life. So, it seems that how you feel about aging can affect how well you actually age — a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The study, which was published in Psychology and Aging and was commissioned by the Yale School of Public Health, examined 158 subjects in their 40s who were already enrolled in a different study, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The subjects were also all deemed as "healthy" and did not have dementia. The researchers created a scale of opinions on the elderly, asking participants to rate how much they agree with statements such as “older people are absent-minded” or “older people have trouble learning new things.”

The researchers then conducted a followup study with this same group of people a whopping 25 years later, when the original participants were in their 60s. For this research, the subjects underwent a eries of annual MRI brain scans to allow the research team to see the size of their hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. The hippocampus is also is associated with Alzheimer's disease; a loss of volume in this portion of the brain can lead to the development of the condition. The researchers found that those who had a more negative attitude towards aging in their 40s were more likely to have had a more significant loss of volume in their hippocampus in their 60s: Their rate of deterioration was three times as fast as the group who held positive perceptions of old age. The negative attitude group also had more building up of amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles in their brains, which also contribute to aging symptoms.

So apparently being young at heart — or at least thinking as such — might allow you to hang onto your youth a little longer. These five other science-backed methods might help, too.

1. Eat More Fruits and Veggies

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Eating healthy is a surefire way to prevent aging: The National Institute on Aging points to several studies that have shown that healthy eating can help to delay aging and increase your "active life expectancy," or the time you live free of disease or severe disability. Although it's yet to be fully determined if antioxidants play a role, the institute also reports that calorie restriction and meal frequency can also contribute to aging. So, eat well and in moderation to avoid moving faster into signs of aging.

2. Consider Botox, But Not For The Reason You Think

Getting into the bodily signs of aging, Botox may have more permanent effects than you previously thought. Although you probably already know that this injectable can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, a study published in JAMA: Facial Plastic Surgery also found that Botox may increase your skin's elasticity, actually leading to the prevention of wrinkles with continuous usage.

3. Try Gene Therapy

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It was recently discovered that extending the length of telomeres on RNA could help slow the process of cell division — and therefore expand your life span. “Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,” Dr. Helen Blau, PhD, told Stanford Medicine in a press release.

4. Stay Productive

One of the many findings of The Longevity Project, an 80-year-long study on aging, found that those who remained productive throughout their lives lived longer than those who were earlier to retirement. Best to keep busy, it seems.

5. Be Prudent... For Real

Happiness was also linked to living longer in The Longevity Project's research, but not in the way you'd probably expect. One of the findings that surprised the researchers was that participants they'd followed from childhood who were the most happy and cheerful actually lived shorter lives than those who weren't as jovial.

"One of the findings that really astounds people, including us, is that The Longevity Project participants who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives, on average, than those who were less cheerful and joking. It was the most prudent and persistent individuals who stayed healthiest and lived the longest," study author Leslie Martin explained to Phys.org.

So perhaps you should wipe that smile off of your face and become more pragmatic? Just remember that a longer life doesn't necessarily mean a happier one.

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