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Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease May Speed Dementia
Date:3/10/2009

Expert urges people to modify lifestyle after reports find a connection,,

TUESDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity and its common companions -- diabetes and heart disease -- can work together to speed dementia and other brain ills, a series of new studies shows.

One expert thinks these papers, published in the March issue of Neurology, deliver a key message, namely that people can take steps to reduce their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. People think about lifestyle factors in preventing heart disease, he says, but not always when it comes to losing mental abilities.

"This is an important message," said Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, chairman of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer's Association and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic. "Development of cognitive decline need not be a passive process."

"We are not all just sitting here and aging, and sooner or later it's going to hit us," said Petersen, who was not involved in the studies. "In fact, there may be some modifiable lifestyle factors that may influence our risk of developing cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease down the road."

In one report, Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, found that among older women, obesity, high blood pressure and a low level of HDL, the "good" cholesterol -- collectively labeled metabolic syndrome -- were each associated with a 23 percent increase in risk for cognitive impairment.

Yaffe's research team collected data on 4,895 women who averaged 66 years old and who had no cognitive impairment at the start of the study. Among the 497 women with metabolic syndrome, about 7 percent developed cognitive impairment, compared with 4 percent of the women without the condition.

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