Most people think about blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes when they are pressed to consider the possible health ramifications of being overweight. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not thought of as being connected to a person’s weight. I hope this article will change that.
Dementia, in all its forms, is a horrific disease. While diabetes or heart disease are bad enough and, in some cases, may even be deadly, there is something uniquely horrible about dementia. In a way, this disease takes from you a part of what makes you human: your ability to think clearly, to remember, to apply your mind as a human being should be capable of doing.
While dementia and Alzheimer’s often appear in the later stages of life, it seems that your physical condition in earlier years may play a role in determining your risk of suffering from these afflictions. A number of studies conducted in recent years indicate that overweight people may face greater risk of dementia than those of normal weight. This makes it even more urgent to keep your weight in check.
Studies of Obesity and Dementia
The first study I want to present to you was conducted in Sweden and looked at the connection between excess weight in midlife and chances of attracting dementia in later life . What’s interesting about this study is how it was done.
The study looked at over 8,500 twins and examined data ranging for 30 years. The researchers examined the health records of these twins 30 years ago when their average age was 43. In those records the height and weight of the subjects was documented.
Lately, the researchers examined the subjects for signs of dementia. Today, the average age of the subjects is 74. The conclusions are clear and frightening. Those subjects who were overweight or obese in mid-life had an 80% higher chance of attracting dementia (whether light or severe). In addition, the more overweight they were, the higher the risk appears to be.
A second study which was also conducted in Sweden, though by a different institution, had an even longer span: up to 40 years . The data for the study encompassed 1,152 twins whose body mass index (height and weight) was recorded in 1963. The twins were all 45 – 65 years of age.
The subjects were later screened for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and a clear connection was found. Overweight and obese men and women in midlife are at a higher risk of attracting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in later life. Those who suffered from diabetes were at even greater risk of vascular dementia. As diabetes is often connected to bad eating habits and weight gain, this is just further reason why you should strive to maintain a normal weight and follow a healthy eating plan.
The third study was done by Kaiser Permanente in California . This study looked at people who underwent extensive health checks in the period of 1964 to 1968. At that time, all of the subjects were 40 – 45 years of age. The same subjects were examined for signs of dementia from 1995 to 2006. A strong connection was found between excess weight and risk of dementia.
It’s not clear why obesity and overweight state is connected to dementia. I’m sure that more studies will be done to examine this connection and to find answers to this question.
Where Does the Leave You
I can guess that if you, the reader, is a young person in their 20′s or 30′s you may be wondering what all this has to do with you. After all, these studies examined people in midlife. You have a lot of time ’till you’re that old.
The fact is that if you don’t take care of your health and your weight when you’re young, you are likely to be overweight when you’re older. Losing weight gets harder as you age because your metabolism gets slower. You need to take action now not just to improve how you look but to preserve your health for the future.
Ask anyone who has had a parent or grandparent with dementia to describe to you some of the symptoms. It should be enough to motivate you to start eating right and working out regularly. Your health depends on it.
1. Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk: A population-based twin study. Xu WL, Atti AR, Gatz M, Pedersen NL, Johansson B, Fratiglioni L. rology. 2011 May 3;76(18):1568-74.
2. Overweight in midlife and risk of dementia: a 40-year follow-up study. Hassing LB, Dahl AK, Thorvaldsson V, Berg S, Gatz M, Pedersen NL, Johansson B. Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Aug;33(8):893-8.
3. Body mass index in midlife and risk of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia. Whitmer RA, Gunderson EP, Quesenberry CP Jr, Zhou J, Yaffe K. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2007 Apr;4(2):103-9.