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Obesity linked to higher Alzheimer’s disease risk

ObesityOct 19, 05

Obese middle-aged adults may face an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life, new research suggests.

Exactly why obesity is linked to dementia is not completely clear, but the higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other conditions that are common among obese adults seem to offer a partial explanation.

The study, of 1,449 Finnish adults followed since the 1970s, found that those who were obese in middle age were more likely than their thinner peers to develop dementia during the study period.

Although some of the association seemed to be explained by higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking among overweight men and women, obesity alone was still linked to a two-fold increase in dementia risk.

Dr. Miia Kivipelto, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and her colleagues report the findings in the Archives of Neurology.

A number of studies have pointed to an important role for lifestyle in the risk of dementia, including the most common form, Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggests that a healthy diet, exercise and staying mentally active—reading and doing crossword puzzles, for example—can help stave off dementia.

On the other hand, diseases that damage the blood vessels and impair blood flow, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Among participants in the current study, those who were obese and had elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure were six times more likely to develop dementia than men and women without those conditions.

“The more vascular risk factors, the greater the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” Kivipelto and her colleagues write.

The implication, they add, is that eliminating even one of these risk factors could cut a person’s risk of dementia. Further studies, the researchers conclude, should look into whether weight loss makes a difference in dementia risk.

SOURCE: Archives of Neurology, October 2005.

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