Aging sucks. Your entire body starts deteriorating and it’s sad. There is nothing good about aging. But probably the worst part is the decline of cognitive abilities. Losing the sharpness of your mind is truly heartbreaking, but millions and millions of people are facing the inevitability of dementia. However, scientists from UCL have found that one of the risk factors is actually modifiable.
There are many causes for dementia. Genes play an important role too, as well as environmental and lifestyle factors. Scientists from UCL have followed 6,582 people, aged 50 years and over, for more than ten years to see if body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference can be considered early predictors of an increased risk of age-related dementia. Researchers found that these factors are very important, especially among women.
Scientists found that those participants whose BMI was 30 or higher (at obese level) faced a 31% greater risk of dementia than those with a normal BMI of 18.5-24.9, at an average follow-up of 11 years. Furthermore, women who had large waistlines due to abdominal obesity had a 39% increased risk of dementia compared to those with a normal level. Interestingly, this association was not found among men, even after correcting for age, education, marital status, smoking, etc. Scientists are now confident in saying that obesity in late adulthood is one of the most significant factors for early dementia. And, most importantly, it is avoidable.
Physical exercise is healthy for you body and your mind. And it is not hard to get used to – just include it in your daily routine and you will enjoy the benefits pretty quickly. And healthy diet will improve your health overall, not just your size. But how does obesity actually affect your brain?
Earlier studies showed that obesity affects cytokines and hormone levels, both of which can increase the risk of dementia. Furthermore, obesity obviously affects the cardiovascular health, depriving brain from nutrients and oxygen. It is actually not surprising that obesity increases the risk of obesity – it is just surprising that this effect is so strong.
Andrew Steptoe, co-author of the study, said: “By identifying factors that may raise dementia risk that are influenced by lifestyle factors, we hope that a substantial portion, but admittedly not all, of dementia cases can be prevented through public health interventions.”
There are other factors that increase the risk of dementia. By identifying all of them we can try to pick them out one by one. As the population is aging it is important to identify targets that should be addressed reducing the risk of dementia, which is already one of the most prominent age-related diseases in the world.