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Middle-age spread linked to dementia

Middle-age spread link to dementia Increases risk of Alzheimer's

Being overweight during middle age may increase your risk of developing dementia later on in life, a study has found.

Although previous research has linked obesity to a greater risk of developing dementia, this latest research suggests that middle age spread may also be a risk factor.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute analysed data on 8,534 twins age 65 or older, from the Swedish Twin Registry, including information on weight and height which had been collected 30 years previously.

Of these, 350 were diagnosed with dementia and 114 with possible dementia.

Those who were overweight or obese in middle age at had an 80 per cent greater risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia in late life compared to people with a body mass index (BMI) within the normal range.

Body mass index is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms (kg) by their height in metres squared.

People with a BMI between 25 and 30 are classified as overweight; people with a BMI greater than 30 are classified as obese.

Around 26 per cent of those without dementia had been overweight in middle age, compared with 36 per cent of those with possible dementia and 39 per cent with diagnosed dementia.

Dr Weili Xu, who led the study said: "Currently, 1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50% of adults in the US and Europe fit into this category.

“Our results contribute to the growing evidence that controlling body weight or losing weight in middle age could reduce your risk of dementia.”

Around 750,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society, and more than half have Alzheimer's Disease.

Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This robust study adds to the large body of evidence suggesting that if you pile on the pounds in middle age, your chances of developing dementia are also increased.

"By eating healthily and exercising regularly, you can lessen your risk of developing dementia. Not smoking and getting your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly is also very important."

The study findings are published in the journal Neurology.

This article was published on Tue 3 May 2011

Image © Knut Ekanger -

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