In the News: Marriage Linked to Lower Risk of Dementia, Nearly Half of Cancer Cases Are Within Our Control, Dog Owners May Live Longer

Marriage linked to lower risk of dementia. A new paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry by researchers from University College London found that people who are unmarried or widowed are at increased risk of developing dementia compared to married people. The review found that people who had never married were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia compared to married people, and widows and widowers were 20 percent more likely. The analysis used evidence from 15 previously published studies involving more than 800,000 people in Europe, North and South America and Asia. The question of why this is might be explained by similar studies, which show that people with spouses tend to be healthier than those without them. The researchers analyzed that married couples may motivate each other to exercise, eat healthfully, maintain social ties and smoke and drink less—all things that are associated with a lower risk for dementia. Check out this fact sheet to learn more about this disease. (T) 

Nearly half of cancer cases are within our control. In a study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, researchers at the American Cancer Society calculated how much risk factors for cancer are within a person’s control. The study analyzed national cancer data and calculated how much of cancer cases and deaths can be attributed to factors that people can change; these included smoking, being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol, eating red and processed meats, not exercising, six cancer-related infections (including HPV), and more. Among more than 1.5 million cancers in 2014, 42 percent were traced to these factors, as well as 45 percent of deaths in that year. Researchers say that this should be seen as encouraging overall since it supports the idea that a good proportion of cancer cases and deaths can possibly be avoided. The hope is that these findings will encourage local, state and federal lawmakers to support more policies that reduce these risk factors, such as creating smoke-free areas and encouraging physical exercise. (T)

Dog owners may live longer. A Swedish study suggests that owning a dog is linked to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and death. The study, published in Scientific Reports, used demographic data on 3.4 million Swedes ages 40 to 80, and found that owning a dog was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of death and a 23 percent lower risk of death specifically from cardiovascular disease. These results were found through the Swedish Board of Agriculture, as all dogs in Sweden must be registered and identified by number with an ear tattoo or an implanted chip. Interestingly, the effect seemed to be stronger with certain breeds, particularly pointers and retrievers. Researchers suggested that this may reflect different kinds of owners, as owning an athletic dog might be good motivation to go out and exercise, as well as providing social support. (NYT)