Having a big belly in your 40s can boost your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia decades later, a new study suggest. It’s not just about your weight. While previous research has found evidence that obesity in middle age raises the chances of developing dementia later, the new work found a separate risk from storing a lot of fat around the abdomen. Even people who weren’t overweight were susceptible. That abdominal fat, sometimes described as making people apple-shaped rather than pear shaped, has already been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
“Now we can add dementia to that,” said study author Rachel Whitmer of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.
She and other reported the findings in yesterday’s online issue of the journal Neurology.
The study involved 6,583 men and women who were ages 40 to 45 when they had checkups between 1964 and 1973. As part of the exam, their belly size was measured by using a caliper to find the distance between their backs an the surface of their upper abdomens. For the study, a distance of about 10 inches or more was considered high.
The researchers checked medical records to see who had developed Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia by an average of 36 years later.
Analysis found that compared to people in the study with normal body weight and a low belly measurement:
Participants with normal body weight and high belly measurements were 89 per cent more likely to have dementia.
Overweight people were 82 per cent more likely to have dementia if they had a low belly measurement.
Obese people were 81 per cent more likely if they had a low belly measurement, but more than three time as likely if they had a high measurement.
Whitmer said there’s no precise way to translate belly measurements into waist circumference. But most people have a sense of whether they have a big belly, she said. And if they do, the new study suggests they should get rid of it, she said. -The Associated Press