Apple-shape means higher risk for dementia?

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
March 26, 2008 5:04:16 PM PDT
A new study says extra weight in your belly area could lead to dementia.Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Some people put on fat in their bellies, others around their hips. The latest issue of the journal "Neurology" says abdominal fat puts you at higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

Judith Waldman has been heavy almost all her life. Though she has lost 50 pounds over two years by careful eating habits, carrying around all the excess weight led to arthritis in both her knees.

"I was up to 300 pounds, and it was really bad," she said. "I had my knees replaced seven years ago."

High blood pressure and diabetes are all linked to being overweight. The new study adds another risk. Belly fat at age 40, says the report, gives you two to three times the risk of dementia at age 70.

"Fat in the abdomen is in a different circulation, it's in the circulation of the liver," said Dr. Louis Aronne, of New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell. "And the liver seems to be a key organ in inflammation and the hormones that can damage blood vessels in the brain."

It's complex, says Dr. Aronne, but inflammation and certain hormones can narrow brain arteries and can reduce blood flow to the brain. We already know that fat stomachs increase heart risk.

"Abdominal girth is sort of a real warning for cardiovascular health, and we do know cardiovascular health is important," Dr. Gunnar Gouras said. "Poor cardiovascular health promotes dementia and Alzheimer's disease."

Fat bellies may be the common link to both heart and brain disease.

What is fascinating is that people who are normal weight, but have whatever fat they have sitting in their abdomens, are at higher risk for some of the same things as overweight people with heavy abdomens.

The hips and buttocks seems a much safer place to deposit fat. These people are safer from complications of obesity.

"Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer's Disease, stroke, heart attack and more than 50 others, the more fat on the abdomen, the worse it is," Dr. Aronne said.

Asian and Indian subcontinent people of normal weight are especially affected by fat deposited in the abdomen. If you ever needed prompting to get rid of that beer belly, this is it.