Research Your Resolution: Focus on Your Mental Health, Especially As You Age

Jennifer Gatchel, MD, PhD

Jennifer Gatchel MD, PhD, is a geriatric psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital and an investigator in the Department of Psychiatry at Mass General. She works with adults ages 60 and over to help them cope with life’s transitions. Read more about her research.

Although dementia is on the rise, it is not an inevitable part of getting older.

While the number of individuals with dementia worldwide is on the rise as populations age, data are encouraging that a fraction of dementias may be preventable and that lifestyle interventions may have the potential to modify the course of changes in memory and thinking with aging¹.

Data in healthy older adults from the Harvard Aging Brain Study showed an association between subclinical depressive symptoms and tau—a marker of neurodegenerative change—in two brain regions vulnerable in aging and dementia².

While the direction and causality of this relationship is unknown, this and other data highlight the importance of maintaining awareness of changes in your mental health, seeking help and support for symptoms of depression and anxiety, and maintaining intellectual and social engagement¹ ².

¹Livingston G, Sommerlad A, Orgeta V, et al: Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. Lancet 2017; 390:2673-2734
²Gatchel JR, Donovan NJ, Locascio JJ, et al: Depressive Symptoms and Tau Accumulation in the Inferior Temporal Lobe and Entorhinal Cortex in Cognitively Normal Older Adults: A Pilot Study. J Alzheimers Dis 2017; 59:975-985

Research Your Resolution

Do you have goals for improving your health in the New Year? This month, investigators from the Mass General Research Institute are discussing the science behind some common New Year’s resolutions, and offering tips and advice based on their research into exercise, diet, healthy aging, heart health, and much more.

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