London: A new study has claimed that the risk of developing Alzheimer`s disease is six times higher if a person`s partner has it.
Researchers, who carried out the study, believe that the physical and mental stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer`s and other forms of dementia can do lasting damage to the brain`s memory centre.
According to them, although all forms of caring are hard, watching the mental decline of dementia is particularly tough, with men feeling the effects particularly keenly, the
`Daily Mail` reported.
For their study, the researchers at Utah State University spent 12 years tracking the health of more than 1,200 couples who had been married for an average of 49 years.
None had dementia at the start of the study, but by the end 225 couples were affected. In 125 of these, the husband was diagnosed and in 70 it was the wife. But in 30 couples, both spouses were affected.
When factors such as genetics and social class were taken into account, it became clear that having a husband or wife with the disease raised a person`s risk of developing it themselves sixfold.
The findings revealed that husbands were three times vulnerable than wives, although the small numbers involved mean this might just be down to chance.
Though the study suggested that the emotional stress of watching the mental decline of a loved one is to be partly blamed, the researchers called for more research on shared lifestyle and environmental factors.
The findings have been published in the `Journal of the American Geriatrics Society`.
However, Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer`s Research Trust said: "It should be made clear that the majority of participants whose spouse had dementia did not develop the
condition. Researchers have found being married in old age generally reduces risk may be because of greater social interaction couples experience."