In my career and personal life, I find myself repeating this message endlessly, “If you want to stay healthy—physically and mentally—make sure to keep your weight under control.”
You don’t have to be skinny. You don’t have to turn into an exercise freak or spend your whole life dieting. You don’t need to demonize this or that—sugar, bread, alcohol, fast food, soda, or whatever.
Controlling Your Weight Isn’t Actually That Hard, It Just Takes Dedication
But you do need to consider those things “treats” and not staples that you consume several times a day. You do need to figure out what combination of activity and food intake allows you to keep your weight in a healthy range. Hundreds of studies have shown that being obese increases your risk of many diseases—heart disease, various cancers, kidney problems, bone and joint ailments, dementia, to name just a few.
This may sound obvious. But remember that science is like a mosaic: Each study is like a tile that allows us to see a larger picture as it emerges. Each tile is a bit of proof that makes us more confident that we understand the world correctly.
Current clinical guidelines suggest that obesity is a significant risk factor for dementia. But the association has remained somewhat unclear due to conflicting findings from different studies, with some suggestions that obesity could even be considered a protective health factor among older adults.
Taking Care of Your Body Now Means A Better Life as You Age
Recently, another study confirmed that obesity increases the risk of dementia in later life: A team at University College London, collected data from 6,582 people aged 50 and over. This effort was part of a more massive undertaking, the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (cq). They found that people who had a Body Mass Index of 30 or over (an obese level), faced a 31 percent increased risk of dementia compared to those who kept their weight within a healthy range. The risk is even higher for women: 39 percent increased risk.
So if you’re having trouble getting motivated to change your behavior, here’s one more reason to get your weight under control.
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Elizabeth (Dr Liz) has over twenty years of experience in providing medical care to the elders. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care Medicine. Dr Landsverk founded ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, a house calls practice, to address the challenging medical and behavioral issues often facing older patients and their families.