ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
Vitamin D Plus Calcium Guards Against Fractures
Returning to the Road Tricky After Injury
CANCER
Omega-3 May Safely Treat Precancerous Bowel Polyps
Poor Women Seem to Be Skipping Breast Cancer Drugs
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
With Alzheimer's, Health-Care Costs Could Triple
Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
DIABETES
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
Eating in America Still Unhealthy
Antioxidant-Rich Foods Lose Nutritional Luster Over Time
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Staying Slim Is Good for the Environment
Exhaust From Railroad Diesel Linked to Lung Ailments
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
EYE CARE, VISION
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Action-Filled Video Games Boost Adult Vision
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
FITNESS
Simple Exercise Precautions To Help Keep Baby Boomers Fit
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
B-Vitamins Help Protect Against Stroke, Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
Have a Goal in Life? You Might Live Longer
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
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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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