Women: Don't Be Neurotic or Moody. You May Get Alzheimer's.

We just don't get a break.

A new study is saying that worry, jealousy and moodiness in women are linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer's.

Now if only the men in our lives weren't causing us to have these emotions!  Just kidding.

But it's a fairly serious finding.  Women who are anxious, jealous, or moody and distressed in middle age may be at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to a nearly 40-year-long study, according to newswise.com.

“Most Alzheimer’s research has been devoted to factors such as education, heart and blood risk factors, head trauma, family history and genetics,” said study author Lena Johannsson, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Gothenburg, Sweden. “Personality may influence the individual’s risk for dementia through its effect on behavior, lifestyle or reactions to stress.”

For the study, 800 women with an average age of 46 were followed for 38 years and given personality tests that looked at their level of neuroticism and extraversion or introversion, along with memory tests. Of those, 19 percent developed dementia, the Web site reports.

Neuroticism involves being easily distressed and personality traits such as worrying, jealousy or moodiness. People who are neurotic are more likely to express anger, guilt, envy, anxiety or depression. Introversion is described as shyness and reserve, and extraversion is associated with being outgoing.
The women were also asked if they had experienced any period of stress that lasted one month or longer in their work, health, or family situation. Stress referred to feelings of irritability, tension, nervousness, fear, anxiety or sleep disturbances.  Then they were scored.

The study found that women who scored highest on the tests for neuroticism had double the risk of developing dementia, compared to those who scored lowest on the tests. However, the link depended on long-standing stress.

 Being either withdrawn or outgoing did not appear to raise dementia risk alone.  However, women who were both easily distressed and withdrawn had the highest risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the study.

A total of 25 percent of the women who were easily distressed and withdrawn developed Alzheimer’s disease, compared to 13 percent of those who were not easily distressed and were outgoing.

So what does this tell us?  If we're easily upset and like to be by ourselves, are we facing this dreaded disease? Why do I think not?

Let's face it.  Life deals everyone stress.  It also deals us our personalities.  While I have my fair share of breakdowns over dirty dishes left in the sink and socks curled up and crusty on the floor, I also love to be around people and be the life of the party.  So I guess I may not have to worry so much.

But what about what's in our genes?  My husband and I fight all the time about whether his taking of every vitamin under the sun and eating tons of fruits and vegetables is going to keep him healthy into old age.  (I don't have the heart to remind him that both of his parents died of lymphoma.) I get so tired of seeing bags of  almonds piling up on the kitchen counter and hearing, "I just read almonds will help you live longer," or "Did you know, raspberries save your eyesight?"

Ironically, he's a dentist and he doesn't go to the doctor (much like many medical professionals).  Me, I believe in my annual check-ups and calling the doctor when I break my wrist.  I don't believe almonds will save me.

So does this mean I won't get Alzheimer's?  No one knows.  The older we become, the higher our risk of developing this disease.  I believe it's a combination of genes and yes, maybe stress.  But I don't think being neurotic, yet outgoing, or eating just carrots and broccoli is going to prevent much of anything.  

Give me a bag of M&Ms any day.


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