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Widowhood May Delay Dementia in Some Seniors, Study Finds
Date:7/14/2014

By
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Losing a spouse may be linked to multiple health issues, but dementia isn't one of them, according to a new study.

For certain seniors, widowhood may even delay dementia, the researchers found.

"For those who had a mild memory problem, losing the spouse was associated with a later age of developing full-blown dementia compared to those who stayed married," said study researcher Dr. Bryan Woodruff.

Woodruff, an assistant professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., can only speculate on the reasons for this perceived association.

Widowed men and women may get more outside support and attention, he said. "It may be that social support, that network trumps the widowhood effects we see in other conditions," he said. "We don't know that for sure."

The difference in brain functioning was significant: Among seniors starting to slip mentally, those who were widowed during the study period progressed to full-blown dementia about a decade later than those who were still married.

Woodruff is scheduled to present two studies on widowhood and dementia on Monday at an international meeting of the Alzheimer's Association in Copenhagen, Denmark.

His other research project found no increased dementia risk in adults who were mentally sharp at the study's start and later lost their spouse.

In both studies, Woodruff took into account a genetic predisposition for dementia and other factors that might affect risk or progression, and the findings held.

Still, studies presented at medical meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. "It's premature to say this is definitive," said Woodruff. Other studies need to be done to confi
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