611 W. Union Street
Benson, AZ 85602
(520) 586-0800

member support line
M-F 5pm-8pm
24/7 weekends/holidays

AzCH Nurse Assist Line


611 W. Union Street
Benson, AZ 85602
(520) 586-0800

AzCH Nurse Assist Line


powered by centersite dot net

Getting Started
Here are some forms to get started. These can be printed and brought with you so that you can pre-fill out some known info ahead of time. More...

Health Sciences
Basic InformationLatest News
Cocoa Might Give Your Brain a Boost: StudyLockdown Loneliness Could Worsen Parkinson's SymptomsChildhood Lead Exposure Tied to Brain Changes in Middle AgeStaying Social Can Boost Healthy 'Gray Matter' in Aging BrainsDNA Analysis Might Reveal Melanoma RiskGenetics Might Explain Some Cases of Cerebral PalsyDiabetes Drug Metformin May Protect the Aging BrainNew Research Links Another Gene to Alzheimer's RiskYour Sex Affects Your Genes for Body Fat, Cancer, Birth WeightExperimental Drug Shows Promise Against ALSCould Gene Therapy Stem the Damage of Parkinson's?Genetic Research May Help Identify Causes of StillbirthBlood Test Heralds New Era in Alzheimer's DiagnosisMore Clues to the Genes Behind Hearing LossScientists Move Closer to Mapping Entire Human GenomeBlood Test May Reveal Concussion Severity With Accuracy of Spinal TapDeep Brain Stimulation May Slow Parkinson's, Study FindsStroke, Confusion: COVID-19 Often Impacts the Brain, Study ShowsYour Genes May Affect How You'll Heal If WoundedEven Without Concussion, Athletes' Brains Can Change After Head Jolts: StudyHealthDay In-Depth
The AI Revolution: For Patients, Promise and Challenges Ahead">HealthDay In-Depth
The AI Revolution: For Patients, Promise and Challenges Ahead
HealthDay In-Depth
The AI Revolution: Giving Docs a Diagnostic Assist">HealthDay In-Depth
The AI Revolution: Giving Docs a Diagnostic Assist
Blood Test Might Predict Worsening MSKeto Diet Might Change Your Gut in More Ways Than OneParkinson's Patient Improving After First-Ever Stem Cell TherapyKey Areas of the Brain Triggered in Recent Heart Attack SurvivorsFirst Good Evidence That Brain Hits 'Replay' While You SleepSome NFL Players May Be Misdiagnosed With Brain Disease: StudyGreenhouse Gases Bad for Your BrainTransplanted Skin Stem Cells Help Blind Mice See LightBrain Plaques Signal Alzheimer's Even Before Other Symptoms Emerge: Study'It's Like You Have a Hand Again': New Prosthetic Gets Closer to the Real ThingLosing a Spouse Could Speed Brain's DeclinePaddles Against Parkinson's: Ping Pong Might Ease SymptomsIn a First, Doctors Use Robotics to Treat Brain AneurysmSkiers Study Suggests Fitness May Stave Off Parkinson'sCRISPR Gene Editing Creates 'Designer' Immune Cells That Fight CancerGene Variant Ups Dementia Risk in Parkinson's Patients: StudyGene Variation May Protect Against Alzheimer's: StudyYoung-Onset Parkinson's May Start in the Womb, New Research SuggestsNew Gene Study Unravels Cancer's SecretsDoes Size Matter? Volume of Brain Area Not Always Tied to Memory, ThinkingGene Test Might Spot Soccer Players at High Risk for Brain TroubleSevere Deprivation in Childhood Has Lasting Impact on Brain SizeIn the Future, Could Exercise's Benefits Come in a Pill?Could Brain Scans Spot Children's Mood, Attention Problems Early?Brain Damage Changes Over Time in Boxers, MMA FightersSpecial 'Invisible' Dye Could Serve as Skin's Vaccination RecordCancer Drug Shows Promise for Parkinson's Patients'Smart' Contact Lenses Might Also Monitor Eye Health
Questions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Medical Disorders
Mental Disorders
Mental Health Professions

Losing a Spouse Could Speed Brain's Decline

HealthDay News
by By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Feb 26th 2020

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 26, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Losing a spouse can be a heartbreaker, and new research suggests it's also tough on the brain.

The study found that when a husband or wife dies, the surviving mate's mental acuity could start to decline.

In fact, people who are widowed and have high levels of beta-amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, appear to experience cognitive decline three times faster than similar people who have not lost a spouse, the researchers added.

"The associations of widowhood and amyloid were compounded, not simply additive, indicating that widowhood is a specific risk factor for cognitive decline due to Alzheimer's disease," explained lead researcher Dr. Nancy Donovan, chief of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Rebecca Edelmayer, director of scientific engagement at Alzheimer's Association, reviewed the findings and said this small study can't prove that being widowed causes cognitive decline, but it may well be a factor.

Donovan said the specific mechanisms by which widowhood increases the risk of cognitive decline isn't known.

"Some studies suggest that having close relationships, such as a close sibling or adult child, helps to protect against cognitive decline among widows, though we didn't find this in our study," Donovan said.

It is likely that being married has beneficial effects by providing daily emotional support, stimulating companionship, better health behaviors and larger social networks, she said.

For people who lose a spouse, Donovan recommends "what we know to be beneficial overall for older adults: exercise, social engagement, cognitively stimulating activities, a healthy diet, manage stress levels and reduce cardiovascular risk factors."

Dr. Marzena Gieniusz, a geriatrician and internist at Northwell Health in Manhasset, N.Y., said she often sees cognitive decline in surviving spouses in her practice.

"I think being married is likely a protective factor, which is lost when the spouse passes away," she said.

It's possible that the beginnings of thinking declines were already present in the surviving spouse, but hidden, said Gieniusz, who wasn't involved with the study.

"Passing of a spouse likely leads to an unmasking of mild cognitive impairment, which went previously unnoticed," she said.

Having a spouse seems to be an extra layer of support throughout life in general, "which makes sense," Gieniusz said. "Two people tackling life together is easier than one doing it alone and also likely functions to help slow cognitive decline."

Also, people become more isolated when a spouse passes away. "I'm sure that contributes to cognitive decline," Gieniusz said.

For the study, Donovan and her colleagues collected data on nearly 260 seniors who took part in the Harvard Aging Brain Study. All the participants had their levels of brain beta-amyloid determined at the start of the study.

The researchers monitored the participants' cognitive performance each year for four years.

They found that cognitive performance declined among those who were widowed, while no difference was seen among those who were married or single.

Also, cognitive decline among people with the highest beta-amyloid levels was three times faster among those widowed as those married. This finding remained significant after the researchers took age, sex, socioeconomic status and depression into account.

The report was published online Feb. 26 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

This study highlights one factor that can affect cognitive decline, Edelmayer said.

"It is important that we continue to study Alzheimer's disease and all dementia, from all angles, because that's the only way that we will be able to provide the right type of care and support structures that are going to be necessary for these populations. And it's also going to be important for us to truly understand the types of risk factors that are driving the disease process," Edelmayer said.

More information

For more on coping with grief, see the Alzheimer's Association.