Obesity and high blood pressure ‘speed up mental decline’ for those aged over 50

(Daily Mail) — Obesity and high blood pressure lead to faster mental decline in the over-50s, researchers warn.

A study shows that being fat and having other risk factors for heart disease and diabetes accelerates the loss of memory and other cognitive skills.

Over the course of a decade, obese participants’ brains aged 3.8 years more than those of a healthy weight.

The fattest participants had a 22.5 per cent faster drop-off in test scores compared with those who were a healthy size and had fewer risk factors.

Experts warn that obesity in  middle-age could be a major risk factor for developing dementia in later life, as well as conditions such as diabetes.

The claim has been strengthened after the study by scientists at the French medical research institution INSERM examining the mental skills, body mass index and general health of 6,401 adults with an average age of 50.

Researchers took note of so-called ‘metabolic abnormalities’ such as high blood pressure, low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, high blood sugar and whether participants took diabetes medication.

A third of the participants had two or more of these risk factors, while 9 per cent were obese (defined as having a BMI above 30) and 38 per cent were overweight (with a BMI of between 25 and 29.9).

The participants then took tests on memory and other cognitive skills three times over ten years. Those who were overweight or obese and had at least two metabolic abnormalities showed the fastest decline.

Over the course of the study, those who were both obese and ‘metabolically abnormal’ experienced a 22.5 per cent faster decline on their scores than those who were a normal weight with no abnormalities.

Among a middle-aged sub-group of participants who had an average age of 56 at the start of testing, researchers found a decline in scores equivalent to an extra 3.8 years of ageing among those who were obese.


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