AsianScientist (Jun. 10, 2019) – Scientists in South Korea have found that changes in body mass index (BMI) in old age may be a predictor of dementia risk. They published their results in the journal BMJ Open.
With increasing life expectancy and an aging population, dementia is becoming more commonplace. Understanding the genetic and lifestyle factors that predispose one to dementia may help to lower its incidence or slow its progression.
In the present study, researchers led by Professor Kwon Jin-Won at Kyungpook National University, South Korea, set out to investigate the association between BMI changes over a two-year period and dementia in an elderly Korean population. They examined 67,219 participants aged 60-79 years who underwent BMI measurement in 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 as part of the National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening Cohort in the country.
The researchers measured characteristics including the BMI, socioeconomic status and cardiometabolic risk factors of study participants. The difference between BMI at the start of the study period and at the next health screening (2004-2005) was used to calculate the change in BMI.
After two years, the incidence of dementia was monitored for an average of 5.3 years from 2008 to 2013. During the 5.3 years of follow-up time, the numbers of men and women with dementia totaled 4,887 and 6,685, respectively.
The researchers reported a significant association between late-life BMI changes and dementia in both sexes. Rapid weight change—a ten percent or higher increase or decrease in BMI—over a two-year period was associated with a higher risk of dementia compared with a person whose BMI was stable.
Cardiometabolic risk factors, including pre-existing hypertension, congestive heart failure, diabetes and high fasting blood sugar, were significant risk factors for dementia as well. In particular, patients with high fasting blood sugar had a 1.6-fold higher risk of developing dementia compared to individuals with normal or pre-high fasting blood sugar.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, frequent drinking and less physical activity in late life were also associated with dementia. As this is an observational study, the researchers cautioned against inferring cause and effect, and highlighted some uncertainty around the accuracy of self-reported lifestyle habits.
“Our results suggest that continuous weight control, disease management and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle are beneficial in the prevention of dementia, even in later life,” said the study authors.
Source: BMJ; Photo: Shutterstock.
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