Could a Botox jab really cut your risks of getting dementia.
A boosted self-esteem can help ward off Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Could a nip and tuck help keep your brain as youthful as the new features?
- It sounds absurd, but that’s what a leading plastic surgeon is suggesting
- This is based on studies saying negative attitudes increase Alzheimer’s risk
Could a nip and tuck help keep your brain as youthful as your newly rearranged face?
It sounds absurd, yet that’s just what a leading U. S.plastic surgeon is suggesting.
In a paper published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Dr Foad Nahai, a professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, suggests that seeing a younger face in the mirror can boost self-esteem, and this in turn may have a regenerating effect on the body.
Citing studies that show negative attitudes to ageing seem to increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s, Dr Nahai says: ‘A growing body of scientific evidence supports the notion that an individual’s attitudes to ageing and personal appearance could have profound effects upon physical and mental well-being.
‘It seems these attitudes, directly or indirectly through stress or other mechanisms, affect brain chemistry.’
He argues people who look younger after cosmetic treatments may have a ‘more positive attitude toward growing older’ which may cut their risk of brain disease.
One of the studies Dr Nahai refers to, led by Yale School of Public Health in the U.S., found that people who held negative views about ageing when they were younger, were more likely to experience brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease decades on.
For the study, published in the journal Psychology and Aging last December, healthy people in their 40s were asked how much they agreed with statements such as ‘older people are absent-minded’ or ‘older people have trouble learning new things’.
Twenty-eight years later they were given MRI scans and in those who were most pessimistic about ageing, the hippocampus, an area of the brain crucial to memory, had shrunk.
They also had an increased number of protein clusters called amyloid plaques, and more twisted strands of protein (neurofibrillary tangles) both of which are linked to Alzheimer’s.
Becca Levy, a professor of public health and of psychology at Yale, suggests the ‘stress generated by the negative beliefs about ageing that individuals sometimes internalise’ can result in brain changes.
Other cosmetic techniques such as Botox injections could help, says Dr Nahai.
He points to a study by another U.S. plastic surgeon and a psychiatrist, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in May 2014, which found the jabs relieved depression in more than half of patients.
A study published last month in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry showed depression is associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
‘People might think that linking cosmetic surgery with Alzheimers trivialises it,’ Dr Nahai told Good Health.
‘However, studies have repeatedly shown that Botox can be an effective treatment for depression, another serious condition.’
He also suggests plastic surgery could have an effect on longevity. A study by the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. published in 2001 found that women who had facelifts lived more than ten years longer.
The study looked at 250 women who had facelifts between 1970 and 1975 at an average age of 60.
When followed up 25 years later, 76 of the women had died, at an average age of 81.7 years; 148 were still alive, with an average age of 84 (the average life expectancy for women in the U.S. at the time was just 73.2 years).
While the study’s authors, surgeons Dr Lane F. Smith, and Dr Stephan J. Finical, admitted they could not prove cause and effect (and it may be that the women looked after their health better) they said enhanced ‘self-esteem and life optimism’ created by the surgery may have contributed to the women’s longevity.
‘Looking older reduces self esteem,’ says Dr Nahai. ‘There is evidence that being treated as if you are younger and thinking you look younger, are both beneficial.
‘I started to think about how it would affect someone if, when they looked in the mirror, their image didn’t fit the stereotypes of how people their age are supposed to look.’ He insists he’s ‘not advocating everyone has cosmetic treatment’.
Instead he hopes to inspire a study of people who have regular Botox or a facelift comparing them to their peers over 20 to 30 years.
Other experts aren’t convinced.
Julia Twigg, a gerontologist and a professor of social policy and sociology at the University of Kent, says: ‘The evidence on dementia so far points in the direction of general health factors, such as exercise, good diet and social engagement, rather than these sorts of extreme attempts to look younger.’
And David Oliver, a professor of medicine for older people at City University London adds: ‘Dementia can’t always be prevented or delayed.’
Furthermore, research published last year in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic surgery found that six months after facelift surgery, while people with low self-esteem experienced a boost, those with high self-esteem felt slightly worse about themselves — perhaps because they felt guilty about having surgery.
Yet it might be possible to achieve the benefits Dr Nahai suggests without surgery.
Research by Helen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, shows that when people think they look younger, they appear visually younger to others.
‘Ageing is a mindset,’ she says. ‘If you train yourself to see your wrinkles as marks of distinction rather than signs of growing weaker, that’s likely to have positive effects on your health.’