Caring Currents

Fat Belly Now Doubles Risk of Dementia Later

Last updated: Mar 29, 2008

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HALF of all Americans carry a new high-risk factor for Alzheimer's/dementia: abdominal density , a.k.a. central obesity , a.k.a. belly fat. And if you have it in your 40s, you're two to three times more likely to develop dementia in your 70s, according to a longterm study of more than 6,500 people by Kaiser Permanente, published this week in Neurology .

That makes an apple-shaped body a greater risk factor than family history.

It's already been established that there's a strong connection between Alzheimer's and such obesity-related conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. (That alone is still new enough to surprise many laypeople.) But this is the first study to directly link excess weight --specifically, around the middle -- to later dementia.

Now some good news: Scientist-educator Lucie Arbuthnot, who tracks Alzheimer's prevention research, says all the cutting-edge research basically boils down to there being three lifestyle things anyone can do to lower their risk of the disease :

  1. Stay mentally engaged
  2. Stay physically active
  3. Eat a healthy diet

Numbers 2 and 3, obviously, improve one's cardiovascular condition -- as well as one's waistline.

Funny how so many health scenarios come back to those basics. So is this new study a scary prospect -- or a good incentive?

Image by flickr user fernando used under the Creative Commons attribution license.