Dropped Pounds and Dementia
Weight loss is a common problem for people who have Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia, their frailty putting them at even greater risk.
But a new study has found that the weight loss may actually begin years before a patient shows any signs of a neurological problem, and it suggests that doctors should be quick to respond to the first signs of weight loss in the elderly. The report appears in Archives of Neurology.
The researchers, led by Dr. Robert Stewart of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, based their findings on a review of the medical histories of more than 1,800 men who took part in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study, which was conducted over a period of 32 years.
In that study, the researchers periodically recorded participants' weight, among other medical information.
At middle age, the study found, there were no differences in weight patterns between those men who later developed dementia and those who did not.
But in the years before dementia was diagnosed, those who developed the disease often lost significant amounts of weight. More than half of the men studied had lost 12 pounds or more.
While minimizing weight loss will not necessarily do anything to help with dementia, it can still have big benefits.
"Poor nutrition and frailty frequently complicate late stages of dementia," the study said, "causing falls, poor wound healing and increased physical dependence."
Source: New York Times