As people age, obesity can put an additional strain on their hearts and lungs, can boost diabetes risk and blood pressure levels, but it can also push for an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.
Alzheimer’s is usually a disease of the elderly. There are currently 35 million seniors worldwide that were diagnosed with the condition. In 20 years’ time, the number is expected to double.
Alzheimer’s patients complain about chronic memory loss, which is the hallmark symptom of the disease. They usually forget what they learned or heard recently; in severe cases they can even forget where they parked their car. They also forget about important dates such as Christmas Day, they cannot memorize what they are being told and ask for a piece of info to be repeated on and on again.
Many Alzheimer’s patients are confused, they lose track of days and even seasons. In severe cases, they forget how they ended in one place or they don’t know where they are. Some of them find it hard to judge distances and distinguish colors.
When they talk to other people, Alzheimer’s patients may forget what they were talking about, may interrupt conversation because they don’t now what to tell next. They may find it hard to name an object by its designated word and may invent new words to get by, for instance they may say “hand-clock” instead of “watch.”
Past research has also linked obesity with a high risk of Alzheimer’s, but the reasons remained unknown.
The recent study monitored 1,400 healthy middle-aged individuals for nearly 15 years. In the meantime, 142 volunteers developed the disorder. Madhav Thambisetty, senior author of the study and researcher at the U.S. Institute on Aging, had the idea of monitoring weight gain and the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Researchers noted that for every additional BMI unit above the ‘normal’ threshold at the age 50 or more, Alzheimer’s symptoms appeared six and a half months earlier than they normally should.
Nevertheless, on average study participants had a full-fledged diagnosis by the age of 83, but symptoms tended to emerge earlier with every additional unit in the BMI. The normal BMI is 25 units, so a person who had a BMI of 28 should expect Alzheimer’s symptoms to appear nearly 20 months earlier, i.e. at the age of 80 instead of 83.
And the situation was much worse among obese patients. Scientists also found that overweight participants with no exception developed Alzheimer’s. Researchers requested the autopsy reports of those who died with Alzheimer’s symptoms during the study. They learned that those patients had many tangles and plaques in their brain, which are clear signs that the disease was already installed.
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