The Link Between Obesity and Dementia

Memories are intensely personal.  More than just a catalog of our personal histories, they are the foundation of our realities.  They make us who we are.  Each of them comes with a record of events, combined with the emotions we experienced as they happened.  They’re connected to colors, shapes, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and, above all, to other people; particularly our friends and family.  They are the basis for our thoughts and feelings about the people around us.  This is why losing these memories is so painful, confusing and frightening.  Not just for those who feel their reality slipping away, but also for their friends and family, who suffer just as much from the terrible afflictions that tear these memories away.

 There is no magical pill to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.  Internet search results will yield many supplements and health tips that claim to prevent these diseases, or to be “linked to” their prevention.  But the truth is that the study of Alzheimer’s, the most widely known and feared form of dementia, has yet to reveal a root cause.  The disease is still not fully understood.  For this reason, preventative measures are usually speculative.  Most scientists believe that Alzheimer’s Disease is the result of a combination of factors, such as lifestyle, environmental factors, and genetics.  Less than 5% of all cases are linked to specific genetic changes that all but guarantee the that the disease will be developed.

 Although most preventative measures for Alzheimer’s are speculative, there is strong evidence that diet and exercise are critical factors in preventing or postponing the disease.  Diet and exercise are also known to prevent other forms of dementia, especially those resulting from strokes or uncontrolled high blood pressure.  The only surefire way to reduce our risk of dementia is through good health.  But until recently, there had been no quantifiable way to express just how important diet and exercise were.

 A new study has shown a direct link between BMI (Body Mass Index), and the speed at which Alzheimer’s Disease develops.  In fact, each extra point of BMI can cause Alzheimer’s disease to develop seven months earlier than it would have if your weight had been within healthy levels.  These are staggering results.  Especially when you consider that a person who is only mildly obese (BMI of around 30) is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease three years sooner.  That’s three additional years of lost time, lost memories, confusion, stress, worry and financial strain.

 People throughout the world suffer from the adverse effects of some form of dementia.  Whether it’s their own battle with these conditions or somebody close to them.  The hope is that some day we will find ways to prevent dementia, stop the destruction it causes our brain tissue and perhaps even reverse the effects.  Until that day comes, the only known preventative measure is to take care of our bodies.  Losing weight often seems more daunting than it is.  It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s one that we will address in future articles.  For now, setting a goal weight could be your first step towards preventing countless diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia.

 To help set your goal weight, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute provides an easy to use BMI Calculator.  Because these simple calculators assume only moderate levels of muscle mass, they are not accurate for muscular individuals, and can even underestimate the BMI of people with little muscle mass.  However, for the majority of Americans and people in developed nations, calculators such as this one give us a good idea of what our BMI is, and what our optimal weight should be.  By finding your height and desired BMI on a BMI Table, it makes it easier to set your goal weight, and get started down the road to good health.

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