Could cosmetic surgery prevent Alzheimer’s?
It’s a question without a definitive answer. But, according to an editorial by plastic surgeon and Editor-in-Chief of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Foad Nahai, M.D., there are clues that suggest a link may exist and answers are worth pursuing.
Dr. Nahai, who is the Maurice J. Jurkiewicz chair in plastic surgery and professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Ga., says he started to connect the potential dots when he read an editorial published in the Journal last year in June by Steven H. Dayan, M.D. In it, Dr. Dayan, who has shared his work with Cosmetic Surgery Times, suggests that aesthetic medicine can improve not only patients’ moods, but also the moods of those around them.
Other studies, according to Dr. Nahai, suggest toxin treatments that relax the face benefit people with depression.
Yet another study propelled the scientific journal editor’s questioning. He came across the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, in which researchers suggested that young and middle-age adults who had negative age stereotypes were far more likely to have Alzheimer’s later in life compared to those with positive stereotypes. In that study, researchers found adults who earlier in life had more negative age stereotypes had steeper hippocampal-volume loss and greater accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques.
“That sort of stuck with me. If cosmetic treatments improve somebody’s mood; help someone’s depression, is this something that we should look at?” Dr. Nahai says. “Would there ever be a possibility that if individuals somehow changed their stereotype of aging, either through what they see in the media or what they see in the mirror, would that lead to their having less likelihood of Alzheimer’s when they’re older?”
No doubt that asking the question in the editorial, which was published online in March and will be in the printed Journal this summer, would fuel controversy, Dr. Nahai says.
“Basically, this [editorial] is to challenge my colleagues and me to think beyond what we do,” he says.
Dr. Nahai writes that his intention is not to promote a nationwide marketing campaign suggesting aesthetic surgery might prevent Alzheimer’s disease. But he believes that asking the question about whether aesthetic surgery could impact Alzheimer’s risk is worthy of a broader discussion. He says he’s also hoping to stimulate research.
“Frankly, I think the study that could come out of this would be to look at individuals who had routinely had cosmetic treatments — maybe even a facelift — going back to age 40 up to age 70, and compare them to those who have not had those treatments to see if there is any difference in the incidence of Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Nahai tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
Dr. Nahai reports no relevant disclosures.