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Weight fluctuations in older people could increase the risk for dementia

Researchers suggest unhealthy lifestyles can also increase the risk for the condition

Photo (c) wildpixel - Getty Images
Many consumers, regardless of age, are striving to lead healthy lifestyles, but a new study might have older consumers putting a pin in their weight loss plans.

According to the study, older consumers who experience a fluctuation in weight -- either gaining or losing -- could increase their risk of developing dementia.

“Both weight gain and weight loss may be significant risk factors associated with dementia,” the researchers wrote. “This study revealed that severe weight gain, uncontrolled diabetes, smoking and less physical activity in late-life had a detrimental effect on dementia development.”

Staying healthy later in life

To see how weight loss or weight gain affected consumers’ likelihood of developing dementia, the researchers had over 67,000 participants from the National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening Cohort record their body mass index (BMI) from 2002-2003 and again from 2004-2005.

Following the second two years of BMI monitoring, the researchers then evaluated the participants from 2008 through 2013 to gauge their risk of developing dementia. By the end of the study, approximately 12,000 participants were diagnosed with dementia, and the researchers saw a correlation between weight fluctuations and their diagnoses.

While having a high or low BMI at the onset of the study was not an indicator of a later dementia diagnosis, the researchers did find that participants whose BMI increased or decreased by 10 percent during a two-year period were more likely to later develop dementia.

During the BMI monitoring period, the researchers also took note of any cardiometabolic risk factors -- such as fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure, diabetes, or congestive heart failure -- and found that fasting blood sugar was another risk factor of a later dementia diagnosis. Participants who followed typically unhealthy lifestyles, such as excessive drinking, a lack of physical activity, and smoking, were also more likely to later develop dementia.

Based on these findings, consistency is key for consumers to help decrease their risk of developing dementia. While rapid weight loss or weight gain can be detrimental, putting in a daily effort to live a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial down the road.

“Our results suggest that continuous weight control, disease management, and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle are beneficial in the prevention of dementia, even in later life,” the researchers wrote.

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