While married couples exchange their Valentine’s Day presents, according to recent research, they may also be able to thank their spouse for another gift – a lowered risk of developing dementia.

Cleveland Clinic’s James Leverenz, M.D., did not take part in the study, but said results showed that being married can have a benefit for our brains as we age.

“They found that people who were married, in particular, in comparison to people who had never been married in their life, seemed to have a lower risk for developing dementia,” he said.

Researchers examined data from previous studies, looking at information from 812,047 people.

They found that those who were never married had a 42 percent increased risk of developing dementia, while those who were widowed showed a 20 percent increased risk.

Those who were divorced showed no greater risk than those who were married.

Dr. Leverenz said we don’t know for sure that marriage alone might be protective against dementia, but that being more socially and physically active as a result of being married can be good for brain health.

He added that one of the things that the study was not able to measure was the amount of time that a person had been widowed or divorced, which could potentially impact the results.

Dr. Leverenz said regardless if a person is married, single, divorced or widowed, staying socially active, physically active and eating a healthy diet are all good ways to maximize our chances of keeping our brains healthy as we age.

“One thing a person could do, if they were single, is not necessarily go get married, but actually get out there and be socially and physically active,” he said.

Complete results of the study can be found in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

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