ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Pharoah's Wine Jar Yields Medicinal Secrets
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Gene Therapy May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
CANCER
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
CAREGIVING
With Alzheimer's, Health-Care Costs Could Triple
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
DIABETES
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
Is Coffee Good or Bad for Your Health?
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Radiation Exposure Linked to Aggressive Thyroid Cancers
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
EYE CARE, VISION
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
Too Much Sun, Too Few Antioxidants Spell Eye Trouble
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
FITNESS
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Run for Your Life
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Household Insecticides May Be Linked to Autoimmune Diseases
Cocaine Spurs Long-Term Change in Brain Chemistry
Hand-Washing Habits Still Need Improvement: Survey Says
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Folic Acid Reduces Infant Heart Defects
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
SENIORS
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Add your Article

Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Losing weight rapidly late in life seems to signal a greater risk of experiencing some form of dementia, new research suggests.

For older adults, "basically, we saw that if you are thinner or are losing weight at a faster rate, then you are at a higher risk of developing dementia," said study author Tiffany F. Hughes, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"This is in contrast to other studies that have shown higher BMI in middle age to increase risk of dementia," she acknowledged. "What is likely going on is that higher BMI in middle age is a true risk factor for dementia, while being thinner or losing weight more quickly in old age is a result of dementia that has not been detected yet."

Hughes, who conducted her research while a doctoral student at University of South Florida, published the findings in the May 19 issue of Neurology.

To assess the association, the study authors focused on a group of just over 1,800 Japanese Americans living in Washington state.

At the launch of the study in 1992, the participants were about 72 years old, on average, at which point all were free of dementia.

Over a period of eight years, Hughes and her colleagues tracked changes in body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio among the members of the study group, and then lined up those statistics against diagnoses of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The team found that regardless of smoking history, exercise habits and gender, having a higher BMI late in life actually appeared to be associated with having a lower risk for developing Alzheimer's.

Looked at in reverse, the study authors observed that those participants who had a lower BMI at the study's launch actually faced a 79 percent greater risk for developing dementia.

In addition, participants of any weight who went on to lose pounds during the study period at a relatively fast rate had a three times higher risk for developing dementia than those who lost weight more slowly.

In fact, participants of any weight who went on to shed some pounds at a relatively slow pace over the course of the study period actually experienced a drop in their risk for developing either dementia or Alzheimer's.

However, the apparent connection between a drop in dementia risk and slow weight loss was especially pronounced among men and women who were either overweight or obese to begin with -- generally more so than among either normal or underweight participants who similarly lost weight. Specifically, the team observed that slow-paced weight loss among those with a BMI of 23 or above translated into an 82 percent drop in the risk for dementia.

The authors cautioned, however, that the findings could be skewed by the fact that seniors who began the study at a normal body weight naturally have fewer pounds to lose, and this could affect the pace at which any weight loss might have unfolded.

In addition, they noted that the study focused solely on Americans of Japanese ancestry, making it somewhat difficult to generalize the findings to other racial and ethnic groups. And they described the amount of time they spent tracking weight fluctuations as "relatively short," leaving open the possibility that different patterns of risk could be found if the same group were to be followed for a longer period.

Yet despite these caveats, Hughes and her colleagues concluded that having a relatively low BMI in late life appears to be a sign of underlying dementia-related disease -- particularly if a senior had been overweight or obese earlier in life.

"Being thin or rapid weight loss alone will not likely tell us who is going to get dementia," Hughes noted. "But along with other tests it may help doctors identify those who will, so treatment therapies can be started earlier."

For his part, Dr. Lon S. Schneider, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and gerontology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, said that when assessing the implications of this particular study "the devil is in the details."

"That said, it does seem that weight loss is a warning sign of something bad to happen," he noted. "Weight loss occurring over the age of 75 or 78 is a problem that predicts bad things in general. It's a major problem in the management of elderly people with illness. And almost always the explanation for unexplained weight loss at this age is a few years down the road. So yes, certainly it is the case that this is a development that could predict future cognitive impairment."

More information

For additional information and resources on dementia, visit FamilyDoctor.org.



SOURCES: Tiffany F. Hughes, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, department of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh; Lon S. Schneider, M.D., professor, psychiatry, neurology and gerontology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; May 19, 2009, Neurology

Last Updated: May 19, 2009

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