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Marriage lowers dementia risk in old age

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KATHMANDU — A new research review has suggested that getting marriage or people who get and stay married significantly lowers the risk of mental decline in old age.

Lifelong singletons and widowers are at higher risk of developing the disease, the findings published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry conclude.

In a study covering more than 800,000 people from Europe, North and South America, and Asia, they found that walking through life alone increased the chances of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by 40 percent. Being widowed after extended co-habitation also took a toll, boosting the odds of mental slippage by about 20 percent.

“We were surprised by the strength of our findings,” said review lead author Dr Andrew Sommerlad, a psychiatrist and research fellow at University College London.

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They base their findings on data from 15 relevant studies published up to the end of 2016. These looked at the potential role of marital status on dementia risk.

Married people accounted for between 28 and 80 per cent of people in the included studies; the widowed made up between around 8 and 48 per cent; the divorced between 0 and 16 per cent; and lifelong singletons between 0 and 32.5 per cent.

“There were fairly well established health benefits of marriage, so we did expect there to be a higher risk in unmarried people,” said lead author Sommerlad.

Couples living together without having formally tied the knot were still considered as being married for the purposes of the study, Sommerlad added.

Pooled analysis of the data showed that compared with those who were married, lifelong singletons were 42 per cent more likely to develop dementia, after taking account of age and sex.

Interestingly, elderly people who had divorced were no more likely to suffer from dementia that married couples.

Part of this risk might be explained by poorer physical health among lifelong single people, suggest the researchers.

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However, the most recent studies, which included people born after 1927, indicated a risk of 24 per cent, which suggests that this may have lessened over time, although it is not clear why, say the researchers.

Across the different categories, there was also no detectable difference between men and women in the rates of mental decline.

Previous research has shown that people who live alone die younger, succumb more quickly when they get cancer, and are generally in poorer health.

But the “dementia gap” between married folk and singletons is even wider than the gap in mortality, suggesting that living with someone has direct benefits for the brain too.

With Agency Inputs

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Kidney disease may up risk of diabetes

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Kidney disease may up risk of diabetes. Representational image.

KATHMANDU — It is known that diabetes increase a person’s risk of kidney disease. But, now a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that the converse also is true which means Kidney dysfunction also increases the risk of diabetes.

The researchers deduced that a likely culprit of the two-way relationship between kidney disease and diabetes is urea. The risk may be attributed to the rising level of urea — the nitrogen-containing waste product in blood, which comes from the breakdown of protein in foods.

“We have known for a long time that diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease, but now we have a better understanding that kidney disease, through elevated levels of urea, also raises the risk of diabetes,” said the Ziyad Al-Aly, Assistant Professor at the Washington University in St. Louis.

The nitrogen-containing waste product in blood comes from the breakdown of protein in foods. Kidneys normally remove urea from the blood, but it can build up when kidney function slows down.

Kidneys normally remove urea from the blood, but it can build up when kidney function slows down, resulting in greater insulin resistance as well as secretion in the body.

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“When urea builds up in the blood because of kidney dysfunction, it often results in increased insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion,” Ziyad added.

The findings are significant because urea levels can be lowered through medication, diet — for example, by eating less protein — and other means, thereby allowing for improved treatment and possible prevention of diabetes, the researchers said.

For the study, the team evaluated the records of 1.3 million adults without diabetes over a five-year period, beginning in 2003.

Out of these, 117,000 of those without diabetes — or 9 per cent — had elevated urea levels, signalling poor kidney function and were at 23 per cent higher risk of developing diabetes .

The study, conducted in collaboration with the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, is published December 11 in Kidney International journal.

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