Lifelong marriage reduces risk of dementia, study finds

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In a study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, scientists found that if you are married continuously for many years in midlife, you have a lower risk of developing dementia in old age.

They used data from the HUNT survey, which included approximately 150,000 people.

The team looked at different types of marital status in people over a period of 24 years—from the age of 44 until 68—and examined whether this status was related to a clinical diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) after the age of 70.

The results showed that the group that was continuously married throughout the period had the lowest incidence of dementia. The highest incidence was found in divorced and single people.

The researchers used this data to check the incidence of dementia against health factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, psychological problems, and having close friends.

However, they found that having children had significance and reduced the risk of dementia by 60% among the unmarried people in the study.

The team says they don’t know whether it’s being married or having children that protect against dementia, or if it’s a case of pre-selection, for example.

This would mean that people with a lower probability of developing dementia also have a higher probability of finding a partner and having children.

It could be that certain conditions might help to build up such reserves, which means that people start with more connections in the brain.

For example, we’ve observed that education is a factor and that the more education you have, the better the “reserves” that you build up.

And yet, when a highly educated person gets Alzheimer’s, the disease progresses just as quickly as for anyone else. The reserves thus have a delaying effect—but only until the illness strikes.

The researchers are now taking a closer look at the significance of having children for dementia risk, the types of work people have, and how retirement age can affect the risk.

Dementia is a collective term for various diseases and injuries in the brain. Memory weakens, and the ability to think logically is affected.

Eventually, it becomes difficult to manage on your own and carry out everyday activities. No medical treatment for dementia is currently available.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and eating more fish may protect the brain from vascular disease.

The study was conducted by Vegard Skirbekk et al and published in the Journal of Aging and Health.

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