Weight Loss May Serve as Early Sign of Dementia

New research suggests that avoiding weight gain in middle age can positively affect the onset of Alzheimer’s. For seniors, though, the issue of weight gain and any type of dementia is more complex.

A significant weight loss can be one of the first signals of the disease, according to the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College. Researchers found that the accumulation of a peptide inside the brain disrupts the body’s way of regulating weight. The weight loss occurs as much as six years before patients show signs of cognitive impairment, perhaps offering one of the first early warning signs. In addition, a final decrease in weight loss also is a concern for those with Alzheimer’s.

In between, though, there could be weight gain as a person forgets whether they have eaten or they may crave sugary snacks. Either weight extreme in seniors should be discussed further with a physician.

There also is a growing body of evidence that suggests that seniors at risk for dementia would benefit from exercise and eating right. The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation suggests that exercise can reduce the risk by as much as 50 percent and slow deterioration in those who have started to show symptoms.

Exercise should include a combination of cardio and strength training, totaling about 150 minutes per week. Balance and coordination exercises—such as yoga or balance balls—also are an essential component.

Eating right is equally important. A diet rich in vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and healthy fats can dramatically reduce risks of cognitive impairment. Foods such as ginger, green tea, soy and dark berries can protect the cells that remove toxins from the brain. Those without other health concerns should try to incorporate some of these into the diet regularly.

As with any diet or exercise program, consult a physician before beginning. However, both can prove extremely beneficial for mind and body.

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Sources:

Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute: http://weill.cornell.edu/news/news/2014/08/researchers-discover-link-between-alzheimers-disease-diagnosis-and-accelerated-weight-loss-dr-makoto-ishii.html
HelpGuide.org:  http://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia/alzheimers-and-dementia-prevention.htm
Everyday Health:  http://www.everydayhealth.com/alzheimers/alzheimers-eating-issues.aspx