A latest giant research means that being divorced or single raises the danger of growing dementia. Nonetheless, the researchers additionally uncovered some sudden outcomes.
Based on a not too long ago revealed research that analyzed information from the HUNT Research well being surveys in Nord-Trøndelag, being married repeatedly for a protracted interval throughout mid-life can lower the chance of growing dementia in previous age.
“Being married can have an affect on danger components for dementia,” says Vegard Skirbekk on the Norwegian Institute of Public Well being (NIPH/FHI).
Over a span of 24 years, from age 44 to 68, the researchers examined varied marital statuses amongst people and explored the potential correlation between these statuses and medical diagnoses of dementia or delicate cognitive impairment (MCI) after the age of 70.
The outcomes present that the group that was repeatedly married all through the interval had the bottom incidence of dementia. The very best incidence was present in divorced and single folks.
Youngsters cut back danger
Asta Håberg is a health care provider at St. Olav’s Hospital and a professor on the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), in addition to a researcher at NIPH/FHI. She says the outcomes of the survey contained surprises.
“Precisely what causes dementia is a thriller. This survey signifies that being married and a decrease danger of dementia are linked, however we don’t know why,” says Håberg.
“One concept has been that people who find themselves married stay more healthy lives and that this explains variations within the danger of varied illnesses. On this survey, we discovered no assist for well being variations between married and single folks that may clarify the distinction in dementia danger.”
Within the HUNT survey, roughly 150 000 folks dwelling within the former nation of Nord-Trøndelag have given consent for his or her well being data to be made accessible for analysis. The researchers used this information to test the incidence of dementia in opposition to well being components reminiscent of smoking, hypertension, weight problems, bodily inactivity, diabetes, psychological issues and having shut associates.
“We thought that these components would imply one thing, however they didn’t clarify something,” says Håberg.
Nonetheless, the researchers discovered that having kids had significance and diminished the danger of dementia by 60 p.c among the many single folks within the research.
“Some folks have theorized that if in case you have kids, you keep extra cognitively engaged. For instance, it’s important to take care of folks and take part in actions that you just wouldn’t in any other case need to. This stimulates your mind in order that it probably works higher. That manner you construct up a form of cognitive reserve,” says Håberg.
Nonetheless quite a lot of unused information
This “reserve” within the mind is just not structural. It doesn’t present up on an MRI scan or by opening the mind and searching inside. It’s a part of the “thriller of dementia”. However Håberg hopes to have the ability to uncover among the mysteries via this research.
“We don’t know whether or not it’s being married or having kids that protects in opposition to dementia, or if it’s a case of pre-selection, for instance. This could imply that individuals who have a decrease likelihood of growing dementia even have a better likelihood of discovering a associate and having kids. However the truth that we’ve got the HUNT Research implies that we’ve got quite a lot of information accessible that we haven’t but used to analyze this additional,” Håberg says.
As a health care provider, she is just not satisfied that dementia is an inevitable consequence of getting older.
“It’s widespread to assume that ‘should you stay lengthy sufficient, ultimately you’ll develop dementia’. I’m not so positive I agree with that, given this concept that we could have cognitive reserves,” she mentioned. “It may very well be that sure circumstances would possibly assist to construct up such reserves, which implies that you begin with extra connections within the mind. For instance, we’ve noticed that training is an element, and that the extra training you may have, the higher the “reserves” that you just construct up.”
And but, when a extremely educated particular person will get Alzheimer’s, the disease progresses just as quickly as for anyone else. The reserves thus have a delaying effect – but only until the disease strikes.
Make it easier to have children
The study results are part of the research project REFAWOR (Cognitive reserve work and family) funded by the NIH in the USA, which is part of the program “Changing lives, changing brains” under the auspices of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
REFAWOR has a budget of almost three million euros and aims to study how changes in living and working conditions affect the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive impairment in older people. These diseases are expected to triple by 2050.
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.
“We’ve dreamt of finding a medicine for dementia for a long time, but we haven’t yet succeeded. So we’re looking at social determinants. What can society do to reduce the risk? The state could facilitate having children, for example,” says Håberg.
Genes can make us more susceptible
One of the next steps is to look at genetic connections, says Skirbekk.
“We know that certain genes increase the risk of dementia, but people with these genes can still live to be 90 years old without experiencing cognitive problems,” he says.
“You could say that the increased risk inherent in the genes can be regarded as a vulnerability, where having a stable family life might possibly reduce this vulnerability.
He emphasizes that this study says nothing about the biological mechanisms behind dementia.
“But it shows that being married can have an influence on risk factors. You become more cognitively active, you cope better with adversity, and are less subject to stress. The partner represents a security that provides a buffer.”
The study does not consider whether any difference exists between being an unmarried versus a married couple. Less than one percent of unmarried people in the survey were cohabiting with a partner.
“There are very few cohabitants in this age group in HUNT,” says Håberg.
Reference: “Marital Histories and Associations With Later-Life Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment Risk in the HUNT4 70+ Study in Norway” by Vegard Skirbekk, Ph.D., Catherine E. Bowen, Ph.D., Asta Håberg, MD, Ph.D., Astanand Jugessur, Ph.D., Bo Engdahl, Ph.D., Bernt Bratsberg, Ph.D., Ekaterina Zotcheva, Ph.D., Geir Selbæk, Ph.D., Hans-Peter Kohler, Ph.D., Jordan Weiss, Ph.D., Jennifer R. Harris, Ph.D., Sarah E. Tom, Ph.D., Steinar Krokstad, MD, Ph.D., Yaakov Stern, Ph.D. and Bjørn Heine Strand, Ph.D., 2 November 2022, Journal of Aging and Health.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Research Council of Norway.