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Age Stereotypes Affect Disease Risk Later in Life

Those who view aging negatively more likely to have cardiovascular event

MONDAY, Mar. 2 (HealthDay News) -- People who have negative views about aging are more likely to have a cardiovascular event later in life, according to research published online Feb. 13 in Psychological Science.

Becca R. Levy, Ph.D., of Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues conducted a study of 386 adults aged 49 years and younger who had experienced no cardiovascular events at baseline and who responded to an age-stereotype predictor. The incidence of cardiovascular events was measured from baseline in 1968 to 2007.

There were 89 cardiovascular events -- including angina attack, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, stroke and transient ischemic attack -- during the study period, and cardiovascular events were 1.11 times more common among those who had negative stereotypes about age versus those who did not, while a shift towards a more positive view of aging reduced the risk, the investigators found.

"If an individual's age stereotypes increased in positivity by two standard deviations on the age-stereotype scale, this would lead to an 80 percent reduction in the risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event," the authors write. "The study suggests that age stereotypes internalized earlier in life can have a far-reaching effect on health. In turn, this finding suggests that programs aimed at reducing the negative age stereotypes of younger individuals could benefit their cardiovascular health when they become older."

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