People living with a partner in mid-life (mean age 50.4) are at less risk of developing Alzheimers and dementia when they reach their 60s and 70s than single, separated, or widowed people. Thats according to a Swedish study finding that people who were widowed or divorced in mid-life and didnt take a new mate had three times the risk of cognitive impairment in later life compared with married or cohabiting people. The widowed were more at risk than any other group, particularly if they were carriers of the apolipoprotein E e4 allele.

The reason seems to be that living in a relationship with a partner keeps us on our toes, physically, mentally and socially. Other studies have reported that an active lifestyle, strong social network, and intellectual stimulation are helpful in warding off Alzheimers and dementia. Being part of a couple keeps us busy, sharp, and provides much-needed support and companionship.

Source: Håkansson K, Rovio S, Helkala E, et al. Association between mid-life marital status and cognitive function in later life: population based cohort study. BMJ 2009; 339:b2462

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