The surprising link between obesity and Alzheimer's
SAN DIEGO, Sept. 15, 2015 — There is a correlation between being overweight or obese at the age of 50 and earlier development of Alzheimer’s disease.
As part of a 14-year study known as the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), researchers from the National Institute on Aging evaluated the body mass index (BMI) of 1,394 volunteers, utilizing an estimate of what it would have been for each person at the age of 50, regardless of their BMI at the beginning of the study.
Every two years, each participant underwent cognitive testing.
- Of the original participant group, 142 eventually developed Alzheimer’s disease.
- Each unit increase in BMI at age 50 accelerated onset by nearly seven months in those who later developed Alzheimer’s disease.
- Higher midlife BMI was associated with greater levels of neurofibrillary tangles in the brains of 191 participants, which included those who did not develop Alzheimer’s.
- Among 75 cognitively healthy participants who had brain imaging for the amyloid protein, those with a higher BMI at age 50 had higher levels of this protein in their brain region (precuneus)–often showing the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
What the researchers also discovered was that a midlife person with a BMI of 20 (normal) who later developed Alzheimer’s was 86 at the time–unlike a participant with a BMI of 35 (obese) who later developed Alzheimer’s at the age of 77.
Though researchers admit more studies need to be done, they believe that maintaining a healthy weight at midlife is a significant way to prevent or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the BLSA study researchers, “Our findings raise the possibility that inexpensive, noninvasive interventions targeting midlife obesity and overweight could substantially alter the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease, reducing its global public health and economic impact.”
Dr. Kristine Yaffe from the University of California, San Francisco, had this to add on the topic of obesity: “Fat…secretes inflammatory markers and factors that influence metabolism…Obesity may thus cause an unstable metabolic environment, inflammation, and real alterations of insulin resistance that converge on amyloid transport.”
For every American aged 65 or older, one in nine has Alzheimer’s disease. Age is one of the primary risk factors.
The Alzheimer’s Association indicates that the chances for developing Alzheimer’s doubles approximately every five years after the age of 65 and reaches a risk factor of 50 percent for those aged 85.
Considering staggering numbers such as these, and the societal trend for increased longevity, maintaining a normal weight via healthy lifestyle choices is paramount to preventing Alzheimer’s disease or significantly slowing it down.
Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, vegetable oils, beans, seeds and nuts is recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
They further recommend avoiding sweets, sugary beverages and red meat, while limiting sodium intake.
It’s also a good idea to stay aware of current weight, as it can help to set reasonable goals for maintaining or attaining a healthy weight.
For information about measuring current weight, based on age, sex and height, refer to the BMI chart and calculator at www.40plusstyle.com/how-much-should-i-weigh-for-my-height-and-age.
The National Institutes of Health encourages people aged 65 and older to perform a regular exercise routine suitable for their physical abilities — it reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or helps to slow its progression.
Consult a qualified health care professional before undergoing any new physical activities.
For further information about health, wellness and disease prevention, contact the following resources:
USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center National Agricultural Library
National Institute on Aging
There is no doubt that maintaining a healthy weight throughout a lifetime will greatly add to the quality of every year!
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities Digital News” columnist, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities Digital News,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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