Overweight Linked to Alzheimer Risk

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NEW RESEARCH suggests that a woman carrying an extra 20 pounds in her 70s could be at substantially increased risk for developing Alzheimer disease in her 80s. Scientists in Sweden made the finding when they followed almost 400 people in the city of Göteborg for 18 years, from age 70 to 88. The relationship between weight at age 70 and the development of Alzheimer disease from ages 79 through 88 was "striking," the investigators comment.

For every 1-unit increase in body mass index over healthy weight (the equivalent of roughly 5 to 7 pounds), a woman's risk of falling victim to Alzheimer disease later on increased by 36 percent. The average body mass index, or BMI, of 70-year-old women who developed Alzheimer disease was 29-about 170 pounds for someone 5 feet 4 inches tall and just below the cutoff point for obese. Healthy weight is a BMI of no more than 25-145 pounds at that height.

Why the weight/Alzheimer link didn't show up in men isn't clear. The researchers suspect it may simply have to do with the fact that there were too few men in the study to detect a statistical association.

How excess weight might lead to dementia isn't clear, either. But like heart disease, dementia is at least partly a vascular problem. The heavier a person is, the more likely he or she is to have high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which can lead to compromised blood flow to crucial brain and heart tissue.

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