Alzheimer's Disease: Obesity in Middle Age Increases Dementia Risk, Study Says
Women and men who carry extra weight during their midlife risk developing Alzheimer's disease sooner than those who maintain a healthy weight at 50 years old, according to research published by The National Institutes of Health.
Being overweight at the age of 50 affects the age that the brain deteriorating disease manifests. Among those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, those who carried extra weight during middle age experience an earlier onset of the disease. Dr. Madhav Thambisetty of NIH's National Institute on Aging, who led the study, said, "Maintaining a healthy BMI at midlife is likely to have long-lasting protective effects," according to the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
More than 77 percent of Latino adults are overweight or obese, compared with 67.2 percent of whites. Also, Hispanics have a higher rate of Alzheimer's than whites to have Alzheimer's and dementia. Nationally, 5 million people are living with Alzheimer's, and that number is expected to double by 2050 as the population ages.
Alzheimer's can wreak havoc on the brain for more than a decade before symptoms develop, which is why researchers work tirelessly to find a cure for the erosive disease. With no end in sight, researchers have also focused on examining the impact of lifestyle changes.
Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, one of the longest-running projects to track the wellbeing of healthy people as they age, was an important resource for NIH's research team. They consulted the records of 1,400 participants who underwent regular cognitive testing for 14 years, learning that 142 of the participants developed Alzheimer's.
The researchers checked participants' BMIs when they were cognitively healthy at 50 years old, and tracked when Alzheimer's developed. Those who'd been obese or had a BMI of 30 when they were 50 developed Alzheimer's one year sooner than those who had a BMI of 28, which is within the overweight range. However, the study didn't track BMI fluctuation before or after age 50.
Therefore, the study authors were unable to confirm that weight loss impacts dementia risk. It would take a larger study to prove that losing weight during middle age years could stave off later-in-life Alzheimer's. However, maintaining a healthy weight is always recommended. In fact, the mantra "What's good for your heart is good for your brain" is one that many professionals would support.
For the first time, NIH is preparing a budget for Congress, which will estimate the cost of meeting research goals set by the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease. The organization wants to ensure the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's and related dementias by 2025.
The "bypass budget" is expected to make its way directly to the President and then Congress without amendment, and NIA expects the document to address funding to begin in 2017's fiscal year. The NIH will submit the bypass budget annually through 2025. Since 2012, Alzheimer's disease research has benefited from the provision of additional funds, with more than $200 million allotted for research.
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