New research suggests that how much you weigh at age 50 could be a factor in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study found that being overweight in midlife seems to accelerate the onset of the disease in cognitively normal adults, reports CBS News. The researchers found that the age when Alzheimer’s symptoms first appear is lowered by six and a half months for each unit increase in body mass index (BMI) at age 50.
The researchers studied 1,300 people over the age of 50 for 14 years, testing the participants every two years for weight and cognitive ability, reports Business Insider.
During the period of testing, 142 of the subjects developed dementia. Those who were overweight developed the disease an average of 6.7 months sooner for each extra point of BMI.
More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute on aging. The cause of the disease remains a mystery, but research suggests several factors contribute to risk, including genetics, family history, age and modifiable risk factors such as obesity, smoking, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
The study, published in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry, has led to important knowledge about how obesity affects the development of the disease. “But more importantly, it indicates if we can maintain a healthy body mass index even as early as midlife, it might have long-lasting protective effects towards delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease later,” said lead author Dr. Madhay Thambisetty.
We think these findings are important because they add to a substantial amount of knowledge about how obesity affects Alzheimer’s disease. But more importantly, it indicates if we can maintain a healthy body mass index even as early as midlife, it might have long-lasting protective effects towards delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease decades later.
Weight gain is a risk factor for many health issues, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, lowered life expectancy, and some cancers.