Larger waist size may point to dementia risk

In the journals

Published: April, 2020

Older adults with a healthy weight but a large waistline could have a higher risk of developing dementia, according to a recent study.

Weight gain and obesity are known risk factors for dementia, and body mass index (BMI) is often used to estimate excess body fat. (BMI is a measure that takes into account both weight and height.)

Research in the November 2019 issue of Obesity looked at 473,000 people, ages 65 and older who were part of a national health screening exam in South Korea. After 6.5 years, 13% had been newly diagnosed with dementia. Among the men with a healthy BMI, rates of dementia rose consistently along with waist sizes of 35.5 inches and larger.

The researchers suggested that among older people, waist size may be better than BMI as an indicator of excess fat. This is because older people tend to lose muscle and gain fat without a change in their weight. A larger waist size is also a sign of excess visceral fat, the deeper type of fat stored within the abdominal cavity. Higher amounts of visceral fat also have been linked with such health issues as heart disease and diabetes.

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