ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
Scientists Discover How Osteoarthritis Destroys Cartilage
Pain More a Cause of Arthritis Than a Symptom
CANCER
Meditation May Reduce Stress in Breast Cancer Patients
Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Bariatric Surgery Centers Don't Deliver Better Outcomes
Mild Flu Season Coming to a Close
Many Alzheimer's Caregivers Admit to Abusive Behavior
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
DIABETES
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
DIET, NUTRITION
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Mediterranean Diet Helps Protect Aging Brain
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Pesticides Linked to Parkinson's
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
EYE CARE, VISION
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
FITNESS
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
The Yearly Flu Shot Debate
It Pays to Eat Less as You Age
'Soda Tax' Wins Health Experts' Support
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
A Little Chocolate May Do the Heart Good
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
SENIORS
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Natural Therapies for Menopause
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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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