Cynical Attitude Linked to Greater Dementia Risk in Your Golden Years

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Your attitude and state of mind have a lot more to do with your health than you think. Actually, it’s capable of influencing more than just your mood but your physical health as well, including your brain.

A negative outlook on life can be particularly damaging, causing everything from depression to anxiety attacks, to pessimism as well as cynicism, according to recent research.

For those who have a deep mistrust of other people, those who suspect everyone of trying to cheat them, take an unfair advantage of them, those who believe most people are liars, or are simply not worthy of trust, they, too, are at an increased risk of developing dementia.


SEE ALSO: Dementia: The Facts Infographic


Older people who have high levels of distrust and cynicism can have a more than 2.5 times greater risk of developing dementia than those who have lower levels of these types of feelings. Cynical distrust would best be described as believing that most people are only interested in themselves and have no interest in looking out for the well-being of others or the community as a whole.

Some experts describe these feelings as a form of chronic anger. Growing research shows that these negative emotions, especially cynicism, can lead to poor health. These feelings and attitudes are dangerous in a multitude of ways.

For example, people who are cynical are much more likely to be overweight, exercise less, and smoke. They often struggle with stress, and often have higher levels of chronic inflammation, which is linked to diseases such as dementia.

Research has shown that women with hostile or cynical attitudes are much more likely to die prematurely. They also suffer from higher rates of death from heart disease than women who have more positive outlooks.


A recent study done at the University of Eastern Finland used 1,500 test subjects in 1997 that were between the age of 65 and 79. The subjects were examined for basic personality traits and characteristics including attitude and any signs of dementia, then these same subjects were tested and examined 10 years later. Those subjects that scored higher on a test on their cynicism tended to be heavier, smoke, and had tripled their risk of developing dementia as the other test subjects.

Those who are cynical suffer from a multitude of disorders such as:

  • Stress – They tend to shun social activities so they do not receive support that might help to lower their stress levels.
  • Poor oral health
  • Inflammation – Cynical people often have increased markers of inflammation, which can be a major contributor to heart disease
  • Increased metabolic burden

These recent studies show that your overall emotional health interacts in a continuous type of dance with your physical health; so much so that it’s impossible to separate the two.

The suppression of negative feelings such as rage, anger, isolation, and heartaches, along with a lack of intimacy are all “hidden” risk factors that can lead to heart disease and more.

Unfortunately, most cardiologists do not recognize that these emotional factors are the underlying cause of their patient’s risk factors such as overeating, smoking, high cholesterol levels and hypertension.

Negative emotions such as hostility and anger can set off a cascade of physical reactions that can reverberate throughout your body, including higher blood pressure, arterial tension, as well as an increase in overall heart rate. When you combine these things, this can prompt a change in the blood flow in a negative way that encourages the formation of blood clots as well as trigger inflammation.

One study showed that, when people feel angry, their risk of heart attack increases by five times as much and the risk of stroke increases three fold in the two hours that follow intense feelings of anger. This risk increases for those who have a history of heart problems.

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