Being married to someone with
dementia puts you at greater risk of developing the disease yourself, according
to new research.
Pensioners who cared for a spouse
with dementia were six times more likely to suffer with the condition.
Experts are not clear if this is
due to the stress of being a carer or to the lifestyle of the couples.
Replicating the findings in other
research could have huge implications for how lifestyle and stress can affect
the risk of dementia.
The study, published in the Journal
of the American Geriatrics Society, followed 1,221 healthy married couples aged
over 65. By the end of the 12-year investigation, the husband had developed
dementia in 125 couples and the wife in 70 couples. However, in 30 couples both
partners got dementia.
The authors believe the findings
could offer an insight into why some people develop the disease.
Study leader Maria Norton of Utah
State University said: “Future studies are needed to determine how much of this
association is due to care-giver stress compared to a shared environment.”
The researchers suggest
environmental factors that caused the first case of dementia – such as poor
diet, lack of exercise or insufficient mental stimulation – may also trigger
the second case.