University of GothenburgA novel study from the Sahlgrenska Academy has revealed that middle aged women who have fat stored on the waist may be more than twice as prone to develop dementia when they get older.

Dementia is known to be a condition that can affect all our mental faculties and which is more common as we get older. The most ordinary symptoms of this condition are believed to be forgetfulness, impaired speech and problems with recognition and orientation. It was estimated that around seven percent of the Swedish population over the age of 65 and simply over 20 percent of the over-80s suffer from severe dementia.

“Anyone carrying a lot of fat around the middle is at greater risk of dying prematurely due to a heart attack or stroke. If they nevertheless manage to live beyond 70, they run a greater risk of dementia,” says Deborah Gustafson, senior lecturer at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

The study is known to be based on the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg which was started at the end of the 1960s. During this study, almost 1,500 women between the ages of 38 and 60 appear to have undergone complete analysis. Moreover, they were noted to have answered questions about their health and lifestyle.

A follow-up 32 years later showed that nearly 161 women seemed to have developed dementia. In addition, the average age of diagnosis may have been 75 years. This study was noted to have been performed at the Neuropsychiatric Epidemiology Research Unit as part of the Sahlgrenska Academy’s major study project EpiLife.

Gustafson further said that, “Other studies have shown that a high BMI is also linked to dementia, but this was not the case in ours. This may be because obesity and overweight were relatively unusual among the women who took part in the Prospective Population Study.”

The authors found that women who were wider around the waist than the hips in middle age could perhaps run somewhat more than twice the risk of developing dementia when they got old. However, they seemed to have been unable to find any link to high body mass index (BMI).

The findings of the study ‘Adiposity indicators and dementia over 32 years in Sweden’ have been published in the scientific journal, Neurology.