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Dementia in one spouse increases risk in the other

May 5, 2010 |  9:43 am

Dementia Married adults who have a spouse with dementia are much more likely themselves to develop dementia, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study suggests that either the stress of being a caregiver or something about the shared environment of the couple contributes to
the second case of dementia.

Researchers from Utah examined 2,442 married people ages 65 and older, none of whom had dementia at the start of the study. They were monitored for 12 years. During that time, 125 cases of dementia were diagnosed in husbands and 70 cases in wives and 30 cases in which both the husband and wife were diagnosed. The analysis showed that people with a spouse with dementia were at six times higher risk of developing dementia themselves. The risk, however, was much higher for men caring for their wives than for wives caring for their husbands.

"On the positive side, the majority of these individuals with spouses who develop dementia did not themselves develop dementia," the lead author of the study, Dr. Maria Norton, of Utah State University, said in a news release. "More research is needed to explore which factors distinguish those who are more vulnerable."

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Dushan Milic / For The Times