Afraid of dementia? I am. My paternal grandmother, Idelle, died after many years of ever-declining mental function from Alzheimer's.
New research published in Neurology indicates that people who are more socially active and those who are more calm and relaxed are both 50% less likely to suffer from dementia. Wow. No cost. Big payoffs in how one feels (more connected, less stress).
Apparently, chronic distress can alter the hippocampus, the portion of the brain responsible for processing memory. The hippocampus is smaller in patients who suffer mild cognitive decline and go on to develop Alzheimer's dementia than those who experience cognitive stability or improvement. And, chronic stress, alas, is correlated with a shrinking hippocampus.
If ever there was a powerful call to mindfulness practices (breathwork, yoga, meditation), then perhaps the physiological protection calm can provide is this call. Even introverts can work this side of the equation!