Being conscientious and focused can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s later in life, current research shows. According to a study started in 1994 and involving Catholic nuns, priests and brothers (read about it in detail in The Six Keys to Optimal Health, coming soon), people who are conscientious–that is, those who are governed by or conform to the dictates of conscience, are self-disciplined, and scrupulous –are half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they age.

According to Robert S. Wilson, professor of neuropsychology at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and lead author of a report in the October Archives of General Psychiatry, conscientiousness is “a broad-based trait that is particularly about impulse control, self-discipline and delayed gratification.” The study’s findings seemed to hold up even when the researchers controlled for other personality traits and risk factors such as physical, cognitive and social activity, among others.

I’m really not surprised by these findings. One of the major premises in my upcoming book is the importance of keeping mentally sharp. Mental sharpness includes cognitive ability which depends on continuous education, focus and discipline which depend on consciousness, or better yet–mindfulness, and keeping one’s perspective balanced (more on this later–really, read my book–it’s all in there). All of these activities stimulate dendritic growth; that is the formation of new nerve pathways that keep the central nervous system functioning at optimal levels.

Hey, we’ve all got a choice to live a life of consciousness or one without. No judgements here, but a conscious life–to me–just seems fuller . It’s not easy and definitely not always a joy. Dammit, a conscious life is painful. But isn’t life about every side? Good, bad; easy, tough; cake, dung? Experiencing all sides is what life is truly about. And sticking to your guns, that is, staying true to who you are (not giving in) during trying times is precisely what determines conscientiousness. It’s not just about how you act but how you see things. What’s really important is not avoiding life’s drudgeries, but instead embracing them and carrying them out–that is the secret to conscientiousness.

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