Having a spouse with dementia boosts dementia risk

By Tom Nordlie • Published: August 2nd, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s difficult to cope when a loved one suffers dementia.

This condition involves serious loss of cognitive functioning. It can result from brain injury or degenerative disease.

Dementia often strikes elderly people, robbing victims of reasoning ability, memory, personality and independence.

Now, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests there’s another insidious effect.

The spouses of people with dementia face an increased risk of developing dementia as well.

The study involved more than twelve-hundred married couples in one Utah county.

All the participants were at least sixty-five years old.

Researchers gathered data on the participants’ health histories and lifestyle factors, then tracked them for an average of nine years.

During that time, about two-hundred-sixty were diagnosed with dementia.

Data analysis revealed some shocking facts.

Women whose husbands had dementia were four times as likely to develop it themselves, compared with those whose husbands didn’t have dementia.

The risk was higher for men — a man whose wife had dementia was twelve times as likely to be diagnosed with the condition.

The researchers suggested one explanation is that the stress of watching a spouse mentally deteriorate could increase the risk of developing dementia.

Another possibility is that environmental factors play a role, and affect both spouses.

A more esoteric explanation is that people prone to dementia somehow gravitate to each other and end up married.

Whatever the cause, it’s enough to know that the risk is there.

So if you have a spouse with dementia, be sure to see your doctor regularly.

Because staying well will benefit you and your loved ones.

And that’s what really matters.