A recent study funded by the National Institute on Aging has revealed that seniors with lower scam awareness are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, dementia or cognitive impairment later in life. In fact, the evidence was so compelling, it suggests that each 1-unit increase in ‘scam score’ – the test used in the study to indicate lower scam awareness – was associated with about a 60% increase in dementia risk.
What is Scam Awareness?
To better understand the results of the study, lets first unravel scam awareness: what is it and what does it mean? Scam awareness is a person’s ability to skeptically analyze and question a situation that doesn’t seem quite right.
We have all encountered scam situations. Perhaps you have received a call from someone you don’t know asking personal questions, or maybe you have been offered an opportunity that seems ‘too good to be true.’ In situations like these, many of us rely on our ‘Spidey sense’ or gut instinct to let us know whether or not we should be trusting. Many people, however, may lack the ability to impartially judge a situation and fall victim to a scam.
According to an article published by The Associated Press regarding the study, situations that make people vulnerable to scams include:
- Answering the phone when they don’t recognize the number
- Listening to telemarketers
- Sharing private information with someone they don’t know well or for a circumstance they don’t fully understand
- Finding it difficult to end unsolicited calls
- Being open to potentially risky investments
- Being naive to the fact that seniors often face financial exploitation.
While none of these vulnerabilities on their own offer a definitive link to developing dementia, Neuropsychologist Patricia Boyle of Rush University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center – a primary author of the study – suggests that lapses such as these are often identified as early symptoms of dementia and “might be the type of judgement missteps that can leave someone susceptible to scams.”
Dementia and Prevention
While the results of the study which spanned six years and evaluated 935 older people are rightfully alarming, they are not definitive for every person in every situation. Healthy people with no sign of dementia have been caught off guard at the wrong time and have fallen victim to persuasive and manipulative scam artists. This is not uncommon.
Still, The Associated Press article suggests that the results of this study “should be a call to action to health care systems, the financial services industry and their regulators” and should be the jumping off point for further research regarding scam awareness and cognitive decline.
There are also preventative steps you can take today to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The NEURO Plan is a framework developed by Dr. Dean and Dr. Ayesha Sherzai, designed to optimize brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. NEURO stands for:
- Nutrition – eating a whole food, plant-based diet low in sugar, salt and processed foods
- Exercise – combining strenuous workouts four or five times a week with an active lifestyle that keep you moving throughout the day
- Unwind – managing stress through mindfulness or other techniques
- Restore – getting seven to eight hours of detoxifying sleep
- Optimize – staying socially engaged and pursuing activities that challenge your mind
Consider following the NEURO plan to protect your cognitive health and increase your awareness of scams that target seniors today!