A study of more than 1 million women in Great Britain has shown a significant link between obesity in middle age and later development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. That’s according to this article from the HealthDay website published just a few weeks ago. The article, written by reporter Dennis Thompson, provides yet another piece of compelling evidence that, while there’s still no cure for dementia, how we care for ourselves in our younger years can make a big cognitive difference later in life.
Obesity in Middle Age Increases Dementia Risk
“Obesity in middle age is associated with an increased risk of dementia later in life, according to a study of more than 1 million women in the United Kingdom,” says the HealthDay piece. According to the research, obese women in their mid-50s were over 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia 15 or more years later than women who had a healthy weight. This study, conducted by a team of British and international researchers, adds to the “ever-expanding body of data that says what you do with yourself in midlife – and really even earlier – affects your risk for dementia as you age,” one Alzheimer’s Association researcher, Dr. Keith Fargo, told HealthDay.
The comprehensive study, published online in mid-December in the journal Neurology, followed more than 1.1 million UK women born between 1935 and 1950 – nearly one-quarter of all the women in that age group. The average age when the study began was 56, and all the women were cognitively healthy with no signs of dementia. “At the outset,” Thompson’s article reports, “researchers calculated each woman’s body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on height and weight. They also asked about their diet and exercise. The women were followed for an average 18 years.” During the course of the research study, 1.6 percent of the women with normal weight were diagnosed with dementia – but among the obese women the dementia rate was 2.1 percent, a 30 percent higher incidence.
Obesity in Middle Age Has Serious Impact on Brain Health
As one New York neurologist and psychiatrist explained to HealthDay, obesity is bad for the brain in several ways. “These include high cholesterol, elevated levels of inflammation and increased stroke risk,” reported this doctor, who was not involved with the study. “Obese people tend to suffer poor sleep due to sleep apnea, and their brains struggle to get enough oxygen to function properly.” Dr. Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association agreed. “You’re essentially beating your brain up when you’re obese, because your brain requires a lot of oxygen and a lot of nutrients to function day-to-day and maintain structural integrity,” he said. “Anything that challenges the body’s ability to maintain the proper function and structure of the brain is going to increase your risk for developing cognitive decline as you age.”
According to the HealthDay report, the new research did not establish a clear link between lack of exercise and development of dementia. They also did not demonstrate conclusively that poor diet is itself responsible for deteriorating brain function. “It’s also impossible to tell from this study whether losing weight, eating right and exercising in middle age will reduce your later dementia risk,” Dr. Fargo stated. “Ongoing clinical trials are expected to shed light on that question.” But other experts who reviewed the study have made up their minds. One doctor said “she is ‘absolutely’ convinced that an obese person who loses weight in midlife improves his or her chances of avoiding dementia.” Improving physical and cardiovascular health can have a direct effect on reduced Alzheimer’s risk.
Find Yourself the Right Physician
We’re always keeping our eyes open here at AgingOptions for new developments in the ongoing field of Alzheimer’s research. If this issue is important to you – and we hope it is – we urge you to take an important step toward better health by choosing a board-certified geriatrician as your primary care physician. Good health is about much more than weight loss. Here in the Pacific Northwest we’re fortunate to have some excellent geriatric clinics and well-qualified geriatricians to whom we can refer you. These are trusted providers we can recommend with complete confidence. As you approach your retirement years, and begin planning for all the various facets of retirement, don’t overlook the most important factor of all: preserving your health. Finding and consulting with a good geriatric physician can be an essential first step.
Make the Right Retirement Plan
When it comes to the first step in planning for a rewarding and secure retirement, you need to seek out some good advice, and that’s precisely why we’re here. There is much more to this type of planning, which we call LifePlanning, than your medical needs alone. Your LifePlan will also encompass your financial protection, your legal preparation, your housing options, and your family communication, all in one comprehensive plan. Interested in learning more about this powerful and unique approach to retirement planning? The perfect way to discover the power of the LifePlanning process for yourself is to join Rajiv at one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. These are information-packed sessions that will provide you with a wealth of valuable insights to help launch you on the road to a secure and fruitful retirement.
Visit our Live Events tab on this website for dates, times and locations, and then register online for the seminar of your choice. You can also call our office during the week and we’ll gladly assist you. It will be a pleasure to meet with you and to introduce to the power of LifePlanning. Age on!
(originally reported at https://consumer.healthday.com)