Whether it’s a spouse, partner, sibling, or best friend, it’s so important to have a person in our lives we can always turn to when we just need someone to listen. According to a new study, it’s not only essential for our emotional well-being, but can help ward off cognitive decline and illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease as we age, too.
Research recently published in JAMA Network Open looked at the cognitive function of more than 2,000 participants over 60 and their self-reported level of supportive social interactions. Of all the different types of support listed, like getting advice or receiving romantic affection, those who claimed to simply have greater access to good listeners were shown to also have higher brain mass and cognitive performance.
“We think of cognitive resilience as a buffer to the effects of brain aging and disease,” lead study author Joel Salinas, MD, said in a press release. “This study adds to growing evidence that people can take steps, either for themselves or the people they care about most, to increase the odds they’ll slow down cognitive aging or prevent the development of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease — something that is all the more important given that we still don’t have a cure for the disease.”
The press release notes that an estimated 5 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s, mostly affecting individuals over the age of 65. However, Dr. Salinas emphasizes the importance of focusing on ways to prevent it from developing long before then.
“Too often we think about how to protect our brain health when we’re much older, after we’ve already lost a lot of time decades before to build and sustain brain-healthy habits,” he said. “But today, right now, you can ask yourself if you truly have someone available to listen to you in a supportive way, and ask your loved ones the same. Taking that simple action sets the process in motion for you to ultimately have better odds of long-term brain health and the best quality of life you can have.”
It’s not just about finding the best listener in your friend and family circles, but also being one for those around you. Together, we can help keep our brains strong and healthy as we age!