Being married may help block dementia

By Greg Hamilton • Published: February 19th, 2018
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Here’s a news flash for people who complain that listening to their spouse chatter on and on is making them lose their minds: A new analysis shows just the opposite is true. Being married may lower your risk of dementia compared with being single for life or widowed, British researchers say.

Their findings reinforce previous studies that have suggested married people have lower levels of dementia because their increased amount of social engagement helps build a cognitive reserve.

The analysis of 15 studies that included more than 812,000 people in North and South America as well as Europe and Asia showed that compared with married people, the risk of dementia was increased by 42 percent in those who were lifelong single and by 20 percent in the widowed.

When you were born seemed to play a role, too. Single people born during the first quarter of the 20th century had a 40 percent higher risk than married people while later studies they reviewed only found a 24 percent higher risk. This may be because lifestyle differences between married and unmarried people are lessening as being unmarried becomes more of a social norm.

Other factors were that some widows had less education than their spouses and that lifelong single people often have worse physical health than their married counterparts.

You can reduce your risk of dementia by maximizing your physical health through a better diet, more exercise and maintaining lifelong brain stimulation through an active social life. This is particularly important for those at higher risk of dementia.

In other words, put down the phone, turn off the TV and enjoy a healthy meal and conversation with your significant other. You’ll reap lifelong benefits.