• This academic believes that marrying an intelligent partner is an important factor in helping to prevent dementia (Getty Images)
Dementia affects over 300,000 Australians and while there is currently no known cure, choices you make during middle age - including the person you say 'I do' to - could help reduce you risk of getting the disease.
By
Bianca Soldani

4 Aug 2016 - 1:26 PM  UPDATED 4 Aug 2016 - 4:19 PM

It is estimated that by 2050, or the time people currently in their 30s will be entering retirement, almost one million Australians will be living with dementia. 

Research suggests that there are a number of ways thought to help reduce our risk of developing the disorder, but what if the person we choose to marry is one of them?

Professor Lawrence Whalley from the University of Aberdeen in the USA believes that having an intelligent partner by your side is a key to having a ‘longer life’.

During a talk titled, ‘Dementia: How Can We Protect Ourselves?’ held earlier this year, Professor Whalley said, “The thing a boy is never told he needs to do if he wants to live a longer life – but what he should do - is marry an intelligent woman. There is no better buffer to [dementia] than intelligence.”

His comments are based on the researched principals that maintaining an active brain that is regularly mentally challenged and socially active is believed to help reduce the risk of developing of dementia.

Carol Bennett, the CEO of Alzheimer's Australia agrees, and tells SBS that "on the role of [an intelligent partner in] keeping your brain active and engaged, that's absolutely true."

"We know that as a risk factor, [brain activity] is one of the most critical when it comes to dementia, [and] social engagement has real benefits for cognitive functioning and mental health."

Other factors to consider

There is currently no cure for dementia, but evidence suggests that there are a range of preventative steps people can take to lower their risk.

While these are not definitive, they include maintaining an active lifestyle and looking after your heart. People with higher education, a mentally demanding job and intellectually stimulating hobbies are less likely to show symptoms of dementia, while factors such as diet and exercise, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes also come into play.

Ms Bennett explains that the single most important thing a person can do to increase their protection against dementia is "staying physically and mentally active".

"On the physical side, being physically active and looking after your diet is absolutely critical, and also mentally challenging your brain, staying active socially, those are also just as important when it comes to protecting people from getting dementia but also from it progressing."

Starting early is also key with Ms Bennett saying, "There is good evidence now that the earlier you can be modifying these risk factors than the chances of you maintaining health into your later life are much higher."

She suggests any kind of challenging or new activity that enables your brain to form new connections is helpful and says a combination of mentally, socially and physically stimulating activities is optimal - like "learning a new language in a group while walking" she laughs.

Likewise however, factors such as cognitive inactivity, low education, diabetes, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity and depression can increase the probability of developing symptoms.

More on dementia
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Music awakens memory in those with dementia
Precious moments of connection can be rare for those who have loved ones with late stage dementia. The Music & Memory program introduced to Australia last November may help overcome this.