Being overweight or obese in 60s may accelerate aging in the brain by a decade

Having a bigger waistline and a high body mass index (BMI) in your 60s may be linked with greater signs of brain aging years later, according to a study published in the July 24, 2019, online issue of Neurology, which suggests that these factors may accelerate brain aging by at least a decade.

Participants’ BMI and waist circumference were measured at the beginning of the study. An average of six years later, participants had MRI brain scans to measure the thickness of the cortex area of the brain, overall brain volume and other factors.

For waist circumference, which can be different for men and women, the normal weight group (BMI < 25), which was 54% women, had an average of 33 inches. The overweight group (BMI 25-30), which was 56% women, had an average of 36 inches, and the obese group (BMI ≥30), which was 73% women, had an average of 41 inches.

  • Having a higher BMI was associated with having a thinner cortex, even    after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the cortex, such as high BP, alcohol use and smoking.
  • In overweight people, every unit increase in BMI was associated with a 0.098 mm thinner cortex and in obese people with a 0.207 mm thinner cortex.
  • Having a thinner cortex has been tied to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Having a bigger waist was also associated with a thinner cortex after adjusting for other factors.

Even the elderly should exercise. However a word of caution, if an elderly is walking or entering into an exercise program, he or she should have a cardiac evaluation to rule out underlying heart blockages. Older adults who exercise daily or stay physically active have better memory and thinking skills.

Walking is the best form of exercise; it requires no special training, no special equipment. Walking in natural environments such as parks also reduces mental stress and fatigue and improve mood via the release of the ‘feel good’ endorphins. This proximity to nature also helps in the inward spiritual journey and shifts one from the sympathetic to parasympathetic mode manifested by lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate.

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