50+ health

Dementia partners more at risk of condition

Husbands at greater risk than wives

Husbands and wives with a partner who has dementia are six times more likely to develop dementia themselves, new research has found.

Both the physical and mental demands of caring for someone with dementia are greater than the usual support older husbands and wives provide for each other, researchers say, and past studies have shown that dementia carers are at higher risk of depression and other health problems.

But in this study, US researchers investigated the risk of a husband or wife who cared for a partner with dementia of developing the condition.

In the study, a team of researchers from Utah State University followed the health of 1,221 married couples aged 65 and over for up to 12 years. During this time, 125 people developed dementia and in 30 couples, both adults were affected.

After adjusting for factors such as socio-economic background and genetics, it was found that people with a husband or wife who developed dementia were six times more likely to develop the disease, and men were at higher risk than women.

The research was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In response to the study, Professor Clive Ballard from the Alzheimer's Society said: "Two people living the same lifestyle may be exposed to the same risk factors so it could be possible that spouses both develop dementia.

"However there has been limited research in this area and more is needed to determine which people are the most vulnerable.

"By keeping a healthy weight, getting regular exercise throughout your life and managing blood pressure and cholesterol from 35 onwards you can reduce your risk of developing dementia by up to 20 per cent."

This article was published on Wed 5 May 2010

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