How Weight Gain and Dementia are Related

Excessive weight, which is a major problem in the United States, has been found to contribute to dementia. More than half of the adults residing in this country are either overweight or obese. Six percent, meanwhile, are extremely obese. Excessive weight increases the risk of a variety of illnesses not only dementia but also hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, stroke, diabetes, respiratory problems, gallbladder disease, and certain forms of cancer. Let us look closely into dementia and obesity to find out how the two are related.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a term descriptive for a set of disorders that affect the brain and lead to decline in memory, logic, and other cognitive functions. The decline in mental abilities hinder people from performing daily activities like driving, household chores, bathing, feeding, and other personal activities. People with dementia may also lose ability to control emotions and solve even mundane problems. Language skills are also impaired. One of the most common types of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia can be caused by several factors including diseases, infections, stroke, injury to the head, certain drugs, and nutritional deficiency. Drugs can improve symptoms and slow down the development of the disease but the brain damage is irreversible. Dementia, in general, cannot be cured as well.

What is Obesity?

Obesity, on the other hand, is a medical condition that involves accumulation of excessive body fat that can lead to shortened life expectancy and various health problems. This condition increases risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breathing difficulty, osteoarthritis, certain forms of cancer, and many more. Obesity is brought about by excessive intake of calories, sedentary lifestyle, genetic susceptibility, endocrine disorders, some medications, and psychiatric disorders. To solve the problem of obesity, diet and physical exercise are necessary. Doctors may also prescribe anti-obesity drugs to reduce appetite or curb fat absorption. In severe cases, surgery may be performed.

Weight Gain and Dementia

According to studies, obesity in general can increase the likelihood of dementia by 42%. It can shoot up risk for vascular dementia by 73% and Alzheimer’s by 80%. Excessive fat and an obesity-related gene can reduce brain volume. In a study conducted on 94 people in their 70s, it has been found that obese people had 8 percent less brain tissues that those with normal weight. Their brains also appeared 16 years older than those of slimmer people, a sign of serious degeneration of the brain. Areas of the brain severely affected by obesity are the frontal and temporal lobes (reasoning and judgment), the anterior cingulated gyrus (attention and decision making), hippocampus (long-term memories), and basal ganglia (movements).

The effect of obesity on dementia can be reduced greatly by controlling one’s weight. Regular exercise as well as a nutritionally balanced diet low in fat but high in fiber can help alleviate the condition of obesity, and lower the possibility of dementia in the coming years.


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