(Health Secrets) Are you carrying excess weight around the waist? If so, your risk of dementia is increased according to a study by the Boston University School of Medicine. The results of the study contribute to the growing body of evidence that suggests mid life health has an enormous impact on dementia risk.
What does the study show?
The study, published in the Annals of Neurology, involved more than 700 adults with an average age of 60. Seventy percent of the participants in the study were female. The BMI, or body mass index, of each participant was measured, along with their waist circumference. Abdominal fat levels were also determined using scans.
As expected there was a clear relationship between BMI and brain volume, with brain volume reducing as BMI increased. However, a closer connection was observed between levels of abdominal fat and the risk of developing dementia. Participants with high levels of abdominal fat were far more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
The researchers also observed a strong correlation between visceral fat, fatty tissue which sits around the organs, and dementia risk. This last trend was independent of BMI, so participants with relatively normal weight could still be at a higher risk of developing dementia if they had high levels of visceral fat.
How can stomach fat increase risk of dementia
It is not yet entirely clear why excess fat around the middle poses a risk of developing dementia, although it has been identified as a contributing factor for other health issues that can lead to deteriorating mental health.
Head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Sorensen said, “We have all heard how a beer belly can be bad for our heart, but this study suggests carrying excess abdominal weight could also increase your risk of getting dementia. This is not really surprising as a large stomach is associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes – all major risk factors for dementia.”
What causes weight gain around the middle?
One of the main reasons that people gain weight around their middle is the stress related hormone known as cortisol. This hormone is released in response to a stressful situation, and creates the energy to fight danger or to run away from it.
However, in modern society, we tend to neither flight nor flee, and so the excess energy is re-deposited as glucose and fat. Cortisol remains in our bodies for some time after a stressful situation, causing us to feel hungry, and to crave fatty and sugary foods, which are also then deposited as glucose and fat.
Your body believes that it is being helpful by depositing fat stores around your middle. When fat is deposited around the middle it is close to the liver and can quickly be converted back into energy to combat the next stressful event.
How to reduce fat around the middle
There are a number of lifestyle changes that can help you lose weight around your middle, and reduce your risk of developing dementia, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Areas to consider include:
- Eating patterns: Eating little and often instead of three big meals, not eating on the run, eliminating refined carbohydrates, not eating carbs after 6pm, and including essential fats in your diet can all help to reduce cravings for sugary, fatty foods.
- Stress management: Prioritizing and delegating your workload, making time for yourself, preventing adrenal fatigue, learning relaxation techniques, getting enough sleep and managing your time more effectively are all ways to reduce your body’s natural fat hoarding response to stressful situations.
- Nutritional supplements: Supplements can help to make sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs to function properly. Vitamin B, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc are possibly the most important, but a multi nutrient complex is a great way to provide your body with everything it needs in one supplement.
- Exercise regime: Regular exercise is crucial to get rid of excess weight around the middle. Try to combine cardiovascular exercise such as running, or even a brisk walk, with resistance exercise such as weight lifting.