Abdominal Fat Linked to Alzheimer's Risk

Not that you need another reason to trim excess flab, but here it is: Scientists have linked extra pounds in midlife to an increased incidence of Alzheimer's disease later on. This finding comes on the heels of a previous study that found that modest weight gain during middle age, particularly around the middle, is linked to a higher rate of cardiovascular disease.

Still not convinced that your spare tire isn't good for your future health in any way, shape, or form? Consider the facts: The researchers in the latest study looked at data on more than 8,500 twins in Sweden who were 65 years or older. They grouped the participants by body mass index—either underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. They found that those who were overweight or obese during middle age had an 80 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia as senior citizens. Of those with no dementia, only 26 had been overweight in midlife. But of those who were diagnosed with dementia, a full 39 percent had been overweight in previous years. Three percent of those with no dementia had been obese, while more than twice as many-seven percent-of those with dementia had been obese. The scientists came to their conclusions after accounting for education and other illnesses such as diabetes and vascular disease.

While you may not be able to prevent all cases of Alzheimer's, the evidence is pretty good that staying slim gives you a much better chance of being free of dementia. Here are the best ways to get your waistline back and protect your brain:

  • Focus on plants. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a great strategy. Go for nuts and legumes over fatty meats.
  • Trim portion sizes. Weigh and measure your food. Serve yourself what you normally would and then remove a third of the food from your plate. Buy smaller plates so you can trick yourself into feeling like you're eating more. Eat slowly so you can enjoy every bite.
  • Work out. You don't need to run a marathon, but you do need to work up a modest sweat most days of the week. Find a route through a local park and walk it fast, take a spin class, do laps in the pool, and lift weights. Dance classes are great, too. The key is to find something you like so you'll stick with it.



Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com
American Academy of Neurology, www.aan.com