In the ongoing search for clues to the causes of, and potential treatments for, dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, scientists are looking at every factor of daily life. Studies have revealed possible connections between the disease and a lack of sleep, diet, head injuries and more. One of the most recent studies shows a connection between dementia and higher levels of belly fat. Given the fact that approximately 47 million people across the world, and 5.7 million Americans, live with dementia, gaining insight into causes is urgent.
The study on belly fat and dementia was the largest of its kind and included 5,186 participants. It was conducted by a team of researchers in Ireland from St. James’s Hospital, Trinity College Dublin, and the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health at Ulster University. The goal of the study was to clarify contradictory findings of earlier studies on the fat-dementia relationship. Some had demonstrated that overweight adults don’t perform as well on memory tasks as those with lower body fat ratios. However, it was not clear how the body fat-cognition relationship continued as adults age.
In this latest study, participants were given cognitive tests and the results were used to assess the association between body mass index (BMI) or waist hip ratio and cognitive function. Results were adjusted to account for insulin resistance, inflammation and cerebrovascular disease. Researchers found that both BMI and waist hip ratio were positively associated with cognitive impairment, specifically immediate and delay memory, visuospatial/constructional ability (the visual perception of the spatial relationships of objects), language and other specific cognitive tests. Researchers concluded that older adults “could benefit from strategies aimed at reducing obesity and risk factors for obesity to avoid, prevent and slow cognitive decline.”
So what does this all mean? It is another clear indication that living a lifestyle that promotes good health greatly benefits the brain. A diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables not only contributes to a healthy heart and stronger bones, it supports a stronger brain as well. Exercise that pumps fresh oxygen into the blood vessels and the muscles, invigorates the brain with fresh oxygen as well. Certainly the fitness community has paid attention to fitness for the body for many, many years. Now we need to pay just as much attention to fitness for the brain.
5 Tips for a healthy brain
There are many working to improve awareness of the importance of a healthy brain in the fight against dementia. One of them is Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Her experts say that Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, begins to develop in the brain 20 years before diagnosis. That highlights the importance of a lifetime of healthy habits. There are five rules of thumb for a healthy lifestyle that promotes brain health:
- Live healthy by eating good food and exercising.
- Get out more, remain socially engaged with friends, family and social organizations
- Work hard to maintain a strong brain, either in the workplace or by learning new hobbies and languages.
- Reduce stress because chronic stress can lead to depression and anxiety which may increase the risk for dementia.
- Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, paying attention to chronic conditions, going to the doctor and taking medicine appropriately.
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is insidious. It robs people of loved ones and diminishes the ability to live a full and rewarding life. It’s worth adopting healthy lifestyle habits to maintain a healthy brain and ward off the ravages of dementia.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
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