May 5, 2010

USA: Caring for spouse with Alzheimer's has risk of developing dementia

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NEW YORK, NY / New York Daily News / Lifestyle / Healthcare / May 5, 2010

Caring for spouse with Alzheimer's increases risk of developing dementia, study finds

By Tracy Miller, Daily News Staff Writer

When one spouse has Alzheimer's or another form of dementia,
the other is at greater risk for developing the condition,
according to a new study.  Simonetti/Getty

Those who care for a spouse with Alzheimer's are six times as likely to develop a form of dementia themselves, according to a new study.

The study from Utah State University, reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, tracked more than 1,221 couples (2,442 individuals) over 12 years. None of the couples, who had been married for an average of 49 years, had been diagnosed with dementia at the start of the research period.

Twelve years later, 225 couples had been affected by dementia in some way. In 125 of the couples, only the husband developed dementia; in 70 of the couples only the wife was affected. In 30 couples, both spouses were affected.

When other factors, including genetics and social class, were taken into account, having a husband or wife with Alzheimer's emerged as a prominent risk factor - particularly for men.

The physical, mental and emotional challenges of caring for a declining spouse may put the other spouse at risk, researchers suggested. Additionally, couples who live together for many years may be exposed to the same lifestyle risks.

"Two people living the same lifestyle may be exposed to the same risk factors so it could be possible that spouses both develop dementia," said Professor Clive Ballard of the UK Alzheimer's Society in a statement released in response to the study. "However there has been limited research in this area and more is needed to determine which people are the most vulnerable." [rc]

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