Living with an optimistic partner may lower your risk of dementia

  • A recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development found having an optimistic spouse might cut your risk of developing dementia. 
  • According to the study, a positive partner could help combat some of the risk factors for Alzheimer's and dementia and promote healthy practices like maintaining a balanced diet, staying active, and overall healthy aging. 
  • These findings fall in line with previous studies that have linked regular social engagement to a lower chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer's. 
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A cheery partner may do more than brighten your day. According to new research, sharing your life with an optimistic person may also reduce your risk of developing dementia in later life.

While research shows there are genetic factors, more and more studies are finding a person's lifestyle — from social interaction to how much they exercise — may be more influential than previously thought. 

In the new study, a collaboration between Michigan State University and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, researchers found optimistic people have a profound impact on their spouses' overall cognitive health, keeping them sharper for longer and reducing their risks of neurodegenerative diseases.

Writing in the study, published Tuesday in the International Journal of Behavioral Development, the team said that having an optimistic spouse could help promote healthy behaviors associated with good brain health, like maintaining a healthy diet, staying active, and regular social engagement. 

"When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life," William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University and coauthor of the study, said in a press release. "You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses."

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The research also found that couples with positive memories together could recall moments with more vivid details

The study analyzed results from 4,457 straight couples from the Health and Retirement Study — a national study with a representative sample of the US's demographics of people over the age of 50 — and looked at whether or not they were partnered with an "optimistic" person and the subject's cognitive health. 

They were struck by the fact that the people whose partners were deemed "positive" (they had a generally positive outlook on life and the future) had better memory recollection than those with more surly spouses.

Chopnik told Futurity that people who had positive memories with their partners had an easier time recalling their memories than those who didn't have optimistic partners. 

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The findings fall in line with previous research that has linked a happy social life with better brain health

The recent findings build on past research that have found super-agers — people who live into their 100s, free of neurodegenerative disease — tend to be social and positive.

According to a report by the University of California, San Francisco, people who are positive, who volunteer, give to others, and spend time in the community generally age better than others.  

A study by the National Institute of Aging found that people who keep their brains engaged by playing with baby dolls and video games, or by staying socially engaged, are less likely to develop Alzheimer's, and another study found that regular walks appear to decrease the risk of Alzheimer's.

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