ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer's
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Using a Balloon to Repair a Broken Back
Heart Failure Raises Risk of Fractures
CANCER
Breast Self-Exam Rates Go Up With Counseling
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
CAREGIVING
With Alzheimer's, Health-Care Costs Could Triple
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Fruits, Vegetables, Teas May Cut Smokers' Cancer Risk
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
Fasting on Alternate Days May Make Dieting Easier
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Rainy Areas in U.S. Show Higher Autism Rates
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
EYE CARE, VISION
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
Vision Test for Young Children Called Unreliable
FITNESS
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Kids More Apt to Smoke If Mom Did While Pregnant
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
A Little Alcohol May Help the Heart: Studies
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
MEN'S HEALTH
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
SENIORS
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
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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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