September 4, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

An Israeli study shows that people who ruminate over problems encountered in work or family life during their midlife years are less likely to suffer from dementia in old age.



Are you the type of guy who sulks in the office after you’ve had a blowout with your wife, or are you the one who easily sloughs off family troubles and lets the good times roll? According to Israeli researchers, your reaction to conflict in both the work and home environment — with your spouse, peers and superior at work — may determine your risk for dementia.

The Israeli research was recently revealed at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Chicago, and joined a number of insightful research projects on dementia and Alzheimer’s around the world.

Any new studies, like this recent Israeli one, which can provide decades-long observational studies, help researchers better understand the deterioration of the human mind over time. Symptoms of dementia manifest most regularly in Alzheimer’s, a mind-robbing disease, and the sixth leading cause of death in the US.

Dr. Ramit Ravona – Springer MD, head of the Memory Clinic, Sheba Medical Center, Israel tells ISRAEL21c: “The study demonstrates that people who tend to ruminate over problems encountered in work or family settings during midlife are more protected from dementia at old age. This was surprising to us,” she notes, “as rumination is a cognitive style characteristic of neurotic individuals.”

Neuroticism, Dr. Ravona – Springer points out, has been demonstrated to be a risk factor for dementia.

Data from her study included information from a 1963 study on heart disease in Israeli men. The risk for dementia was assessed three decades later in 1,890 men, who were among 2,604 survivors from the original group.

The mean age of the men at the time of the final assessment was 82. Of them, 308 were clinically diagnosed with dementia, 175 were found to have mild cognitive impairment, while 1,407 appeared to suffer no cognitive impairment.

Mental activity may keep mind fit

To assess a person’s degree of rumination, the researchers asked: “When your wife/peer/superior hurts you, do you forget this or do you tend to keep worrying and thinking about it?”

“Our hypothesis,” says Ravona-Springer, “is that there may be several types of rumination, some of which are associated with more effective problem solving. In these cases rumination may be a form of mental activity. Mental activity in midlife has already been demonstrated to be protective from dementia.”

She also points out that the study was based on associative data and does not point to causality. “Further studies should assess the association between types of rumination, resulting stress, depression and efficiency in problem solving and eventually with dementia,” she notes.

Partners in the study included Michal Schnaider-Beeri from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Prof. Uri Goldbourt from Tel Aviv University.

International studies expand knowledge

One Finnish study reported at the Chicago meeting suggested that single people are more likely to face a future with dementia than those who tie the knot early. A Brazilian study presented data that pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, unbalanced cholesterol levels, belly fat and elevated blood sugar could lead to a 35 percent greater chance of succumbing to Alzheimer’s.

What made all these studies unique is that they included a large cross-section and studied people over an extended period of time. William Thies, VP of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association noted: “We may not be able to do anything about aging, genetics or family history, but research shows us that there are lifestyle decisions we all can make to keep our brains healthier as we age.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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