I’m not sure that there are many diseases out there that the medical community understands less than dementia. In fact, it seems that beyond your genetics most doctors look at your risk of losing your memory as a crapshoot.
And, I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s simply not good enough. I believe that forewarned is forearmed when it comes to your health. So, the more you know about what could cause a disease, especially one as devastating to your life and family as dementia, the more you can do to prevent it.
That’s why a new study out of Michigan State University was so interesting since it found a significant link between your relationship status and your dementia risk.
The team of scientists analyzed the data from more than 15,000 people over the age of 52, separating them into four groups of unmarried individuals:
And, the researchers found that hands down, people who were divorced had the highest risk of dementia.
In fact, the results showed that divorce doubles your dementia risk compared to marriage! They also found that the risk was higher for divorced men than women.
“This research is important because the number of unmarried older adults in the United States continues to grow, as people live longer and their marital histories become more complex,” said Hui Liu, professor of sociology, Michigan State University. “Marital status is an important but overlooked social risk/protective factor for dementia.”
And, this wasn’t the first study to demonstrate such a profound link between a relationship (or, the lack thereof) and dementia.
Just two years ago, after performing a review of 15 separate studies, researchers from University College London found that people who are single or widowed are at a greater dementia risk than people who are married.
Their research, published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry showed, “Married people generally live longer and enjoy better health, with many different factors likely to be contributing to that link. People who are married tend to be financially better off, a factor that is closely interwoven with many aspects of our health. Spouses may help to encourage healthy habits, look out for their partner’s health and provide important social support…”
All of which contributes to dementia prevention.
The researchers also noted that marriage increases your chances for social interaction and engagement and builds what they call “mental resilience” – resilience that could help you function longer and better even if you do end up with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
This means that if you’re married, congratulations…
Your dementia risk is far less.
On the other hand, if you’re divorced, widowed, or never married, remember what I said at the beginning — forewarned is forearmed. Since being unmarried raises your risk of dementia, it’s vital to take extra steps to avoid cognitive decline — and the most important is finding a way is to increase your social interaction.
It’s not hard to do… just say ‘yes’ to those invitations from family and friends more often. Think about joining a club. And exercising with a group is a great idea that could help you meet two ways at once to keep dementia or Alzheimer’s at bay.
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