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Personality traits linked with Alzheimer's disease, study finds

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A recent study found that those who scored high in the personality trait of conscientiousness tended to be less predisposed to some of the more severe effects of Alzheimer's disease. "Self-disciplined and goal-directed persons who scored high on a standard measure of conscientiousness had an 89% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than those with low scores, Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., of Rush University, and colleagues, reported in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry."

While conscientious people still sometimes developed Alzheimer's disease, they did not exhibit some of the more severe symptoms such as neurofibrillary changes, according to the study. The researchers also found that high degrees of conscientiousness were associated with a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment.

To test this hypothesis, Dr. Wilson and colleagues studied 997 older Catholic nuns, priests, and brothers without dementia at enrollment in 1994, recruited from more that 40 groups across the U.S.

Participants had standard evaluations that included medical history, neurology examinations, and cognitive testing.

They also completed a standard 12-item measure of conscientiousness. The participants rated agreement on a scale of one to five, with items such as "I am a productive person who always gets the job done."

Conscientiousness scores ranged from 11 to 47, with a higher score indicating a greater degree of conscientiousness. The mean conscientiousness score was 34 out of 48.

Conscientiousness was higher in women than in men and was not related to age or education.

During up to 12 years of annual follow-up by 2006, 176 participants developed Alzheimer's disease.

In a proportional hazards regression model adjusted for age, sex, and education, a high conscientiousness score in the 90th percentile (40 points) was associated with about an 89% reduction in risk of Alzheimer's disease compared with a low score of 28 points (the 10th percentile), the investigators found.

Results were not substantially changed by controlling for other personality traits, activity patterns, vascular conditions, or other risk factors (Groch, 2007).

Groch, Judith (2007). Personality Trait Linked to Risk of Developing Alzheimer's. Retrieved from: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/AlzheimersDisease/6848

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