US researchers from the government-affiliated National Institute on Ageing have found that even having a BMI (Body Mass Index) just one point over a safe level, speeds up the onset of dementia for people aged 50 or over. For people who are seriously obese, they could develop neurodegenerative disease years a decade before they would have if they were a healthy weight.
This is a clear indication that we need to maintain a healthy body mass index even as early as midlife, in order to have long lasting protective effects towards delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers studied 1,300 people aged over 50 for an average of 14 years, testing them every two years forr cognitive ability and weight. Over that period 142 people went on to develop dementia. But significantly, those who were overweight or obese developed Alzheimer’s far more quickly, on average 6.7 months sooner for each extra point of BMI over a normal weight. Of the people who died during the study, it was found that those with high BMI had far more neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
|Just one extra gram of salt each day raises the risk of being overweight by up to 28 per cent.|
Know your BM1
Body Mass Index or BMI is an easy-to-perform method of screening weight, for example underweight, normal or healthy weight, overweight, and obesity. It is measured using a calculation which divides height by weight. For most adults an ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. 25 to 29.9 is overweight, 30 to 39.9 is obese, and 40 or more is very obese.
BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI is moderately correlated with more direct measures of body fat obtained from skinfold thickness measurements, bioelectrical impedance, densitometry (underwater weighing), dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and other methods.
|18.5 – 24.9||Normal or Healthy Weight|
|25.0 – 29.9||Overweight|
|30.0 and Above||Obese|
For example, here are the weight ranges, the corresponding BMI ranges, and the weight status categories for a person who is 5′ 9″.
|5′ 9″||124 lbs or less||Below 18.5||Underweight|
|125 lbs to 168 lbs||18.5 to 24.9||Normal or Healthy Weight|
|169 lbs to 202 lbs||25.0 to 29.9||Overweight|
|203 lbs or more||30 or higher||Obese|
Top 10 Tips to Minimize Dementia
Dementia can begin to develop years or maybe decades before symptoms begin and so keeping healthy through midlife and into later life is important for reducing dementia risk.
|In a separate study, experts at the University of California found that watching too much television and taking too little exercise in early adulthood more than doubles their risk of dementia. Researchers looked at 3,200 people between 18 and 30 years old. Those who spent more than four hours a day watching television and less than 150 minutes a week exercising were 2.4 times more likely to suffer dementia than the most active volunteers.|
- Keep physically and mentally active: Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body.
- Eat a balanced diet: that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit
- Maintain a healthy weight: watch your BMI.
- Say no to smoking: Heavy smoking (defined as one pack per day or more) has been associated with a 2-3 year earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke are similar to those of active smoking. There is some evidence that passive smoking may also be associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check: Risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health.
- Catch some Zzz’s: Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
- Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
- Heads up: Always wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls and avoid brain injuries.
- Get Creative: Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games that make you think strategically.
- Catch up on your social Life. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you.
There is growing evidence that our health and lifestyle choices throughout life, not just in older age, could have implications for brain health as we reach later life.