Can Your Conscience Protect You from Alzheimer’s Disease?

Conscientiousness refers to your willful desire to work in a dependable manner with attention to detail. Since the 1940s, the psychology field has considered conscientiousness as one of five major personality traits, the others being neuroticism, extraversion, openness and agreeableness. Now, new research shows that your level of conscientiousness may affect your level of Brain Fitness.

A little extra effort may be good for your brain

Researchers tested nearly a thousand older adults that were free of any kind of dementia, rated them on the five personality traits and then followed them for 12 years. They discovered that high scores in conscientiousness were protective against developing Alzheimer’s disease down the road.

Previous studies had already shown that Alzheimer’s disease patients have lower scores of conscientiousness. What was not known, is whether conscientiousness simply declined with the disease or whether having low conscientiousness scores in the first place put you at higher risk for getting the disease, which the new data confirms.

The reason high conscientiousness might protect you from late-life dementia is not clear, but the research team offered some speculation. They first considered that people with higher degrees of conscientiousness take better care of themselves and are therefore in better cardiovascular health, which also relates to Alzheimer’s disease. However, when they controlled for this by comparing high and low conscientious people in similar cardiovascular health, it did not explain the difference.

Another area they speculated on related more to the idea of cognitive reserve, which I have discussed in the past. They used the term ‘resilience’, stating that conscientious folks typically have greater coping skills and are more capable of dealing with big stressors. This goes back to the whole notion of increased brain fitness and suggests that working on your level of conscientiousness may be another tool to boost your cognitive health.

The same thing might be good for your pocket book

It’s interesting to me that a completely different field, business philosophy, has focused on conscientiousness for different reasons. The well known business philosophers, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn and Brain Tracy, have all focused on this in different ways.

One of Zig’s most famous lines is “help enough people get what they want and you can have everything that you want”, Brian’s number one piece of advice is “Do what you resolve to do”, and Jim is continually preaching the benefits of service to others. All of these suggest that your level of conscientiousness is directly proportional to your personal and financial success.

The three biggest goals that almost anyone has relate to a health goal, a relationship goal and a financial goal. Old advice and new research come together to support the idea that your level of conscientiousness is a primary predictor of your ability to succeed in all of these areas.

Live long and prosper

Sometimes it’s difficult in today’s fast paced, stressed out society, to slow down and do the best job possible at whatever you do. Whether it’s your career, your hobbies, your volunteer work, your health or your valued relationships. But maybe if we all worked on our level of conscientiousness a little bit more we could set ourselves up for a much better future, financially and cognitively.

In the words of Dr. Spock (the Vulcan, not the baby doctor), “Live long and prosper”.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Brain Code LLC