It is increasingly recognised that stress contributes to the development of heart disease. In this fascinating study, researchers examined whether ageing self-stereotypes, or older individuals’ beliefs about elderly people, could influence cardiovascular function. Older people were subliminally exposed to either positive or negative ageing stereotypes. Then all participants faced mathematical and verbal challenges. Those exposed to the negative aging stereotypes demonstrated a heightened cardiovascular response to stress, measured by systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate, compared with those exposed to positive aging stereotypes. It appears that the negative aging stereotypes acted as direct stressors, whereas the positive aging stereotypes reduced cardiovascular stress. These findings indicate that negative ageing stereotypes may contribute to adverse health outcomes in older people without their awareness. The results also suggest that positive ageing stereotypes could be used in interventions to reduce cardiovascular stress.
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