Overweight patients may be at greater risk of dementia

Providers should consider patient obesity a reason to assess cognitive function, especially for patients aged 50 and older. Several risk factors contribute to dementia, and while the role of obesity isn’t certain, a team from the Department of Behavioural Science and Health, University College London used data from a 15 year longitudinal study to determine whether “increased body weight or central obesity” revealed a correlation with greater risk of dementia.

The results suggest having increased weight or above-average abdominal adiposity exacerbates incidence of dementia. Overweight people were about 30 percent more likely to develop dementia, though whether this is associated with cardiovascular disease related to obesity, or a direct causal relationship is still being studied (NY Times)

The lead author, Yixuan Ma of University College London, said that this observational study does not prove cause and effect. “Being overweight is just a risk,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that an overweight person will necessarily get dementia. But for many reasons, it’s good to maintain a normal weight and engage in vigorous physical activity over a lifetime.”

At ages greater than 70 years old, there is some contradictory evidence that a higher BMI may be protective against dementia risk, and be associated with higher survival in the elderly (referred to as the obesity paradox)

Still, almost 7 percent of the nearly 7000 members of the overweight research population developed dementia. “From the various modifiable risk factors, obesity could represent a target for intervention, and these findings have significant implications for public health and dementia prevention.”

What this means for your practice: as you make recommendations for cognitive health testing for your older patient population, special emphasis should be placed on those cases with significant risk factors, obesity being one of them. As a fully reimbursable test, BrainCheck serves as a valuable tool for long term assessment of your patient’s cognitive health. 

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