The study assessed 68 people aged 49 to 94 who met criteria for probable Alzheimer's disease. Religiosity and spirituality were measured with the validated Duke University Religion Index and the Overall Self-Ranking subscale from the NIH/Fetzer Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality. These methods collected information on the patients' practices such as attendance at religious events and private religious activities.
"We learned that the patients with higher levels of spirituality or higher levels of religiosity may have a significantly slower progression of cognitive decline," said study author Yakir Kaufman, MD, who conducted the research as a fellow at of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto, Ontario and is now the director of neurology services at The Sarah Herzog Memorial Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel.
"Spirituality and religiosity have been linked to better health outcomes," said Kaufman. "Our research addressed the question whether this link is also relevant in Alzheimer's disease."
Spirituality and private religious practices accounted for 20 percent of the total variance. Kaufman said that further studies are needed to better understand the connection between religiosity and cognitive decline.
"These findings may warrant an interventional study looking at the possible effect of enhancement of spiritual well-being as a means of slowing cognitive decline," said Kaufman.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and stroke.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com.