Most of us think of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as problems limited to the elderly. That’s not entirely true, but it is mostly. After all, the majority of Alzheimer’s sufferers are over the age of 65. Sixty to 80 percent of dementia patients have Alzheimer’s.1 But, as is true with so many health issues, prevention measures should ideally begin weeks in advance.
Some of these measures are pretty familiar: exercise can keep the body in peak shape, brain sharpeners like crossword puzzles help take care of the mind. These are suggestions any doctor worth his salt has been giving for years. But a new discovery at the University of Aberdeen in England suggests a new solution that hits closer to home.
The Cure Is In The Home
Dr. Lawrence Whalley, professor of mental health at the College of Medicine and Life Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, suggests that one of the best preventative measures is one that’s been completely overlooked: “The thing a boy is never told he needs to do if he wants a longer life – but what he should do – is marry an intelligent woman.”
Dr. Whalley’s remarks, which he made at this year’s Oxford Literary Festival, caused a big splash. He spoke at the festival with fellow professor Dr. Margaret Rayman, whose focus was on the effect nutrition can have on dementia. While the two talked about a number of factors that contribute to or mitigate dementia, it was Dr. Whalley’s statements on marriage that really had people taking note.
Smart Wife, Long Life
The benefits of an intelligent wife are not so different from the benefits of other ways of exercising your brain. As we age, the connections among our brain cells, or neural pathways, get worn down. That means our minds don’t work like they used to. It’s also the cause of cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
But that’s not the end of the story. As the Alzheimer’s Association notes, there are measures people can take to fight against the deterioration of the mind. One such measure is education. People who attain higher levels of education suffer from lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. The reason is that these individuals have been strengthening their neural pathways and rebuilding brain cells throughout their lives. Similarly, brain busting workouts like crossword puzzles, adult education courses, and memory games can have the same preventative effect.2
So, what Dr. Whalley is suggesting is that having a smart spouse is like a constant brain exercise. This makes a lot of sense – there’s no better way to exercise and challenge your mind than the person you spend the most time with. It’s easy to get up and walk away from a crossword puzzle if you’re frustrated. It’s a lot harder (and less advisable) to walk away from a marriage. So, when you marry a smart spouse, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of vexing neural exercises.
What Does It Mean For Me?
Some of the factors that contribute to dementia are beyond our control. For instance, Dr. Whalley noted that the death of a parent before the age of five can be a warning sign.3 But for every factor that we can’t control, there is another that we can.
If you’re already married to a smarty-pants, good going! Though you may feel like losing a lifetime of arguments is driving you insane, it might actually be having the exact opposite effect. If you’re not yet married, take note: picking a Brainiac will not only impress your mother – it might save your brain!