Older adults who have acquired positive beliefs about old age from their surrounding culture are less likely to develop dementia, according to a study published recently in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
The E4 variant of the gene APOE has previously been identified as a high risk factor for dementia. However, only 47% of APOE E4 carriers develop dementia. The reason the remaining 53% never develop dementia is unknown.
Levy and colleagues investigated whether culture-based age beliefs influence the risk of developing dementia among older people, including those who carry the high-risk gene variant. The researchers studied a group of 4,765 people, with an average age of 72 years, who were free of dementia at the start of the study. Twenty-six percent of the participants in the study were carriers of APOE E4. Over the four-year study duration, the researchers found that APOE E4 carriers with positive beliefs about aging had a 2.7% risk of developing dementia, compared to a 6.1% risk for those with negative beliefs about aging.