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Is There a Link Between Weight and Dementia Risk?

By Stepy Kamei

We all know that carrying a few extra pounds of belly fat isn't exactly healthy, but it can have a negative impact on more aspects of your health than you may realize. Aside from the more obvious effects being overweight can have on your heart, blood pressure, and joint health, having extra weight on your body -- especially in the belly area -- may increase your chances of developing cognitive health issues such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. When you take into consideration the fact that rates of Alzheimer's and obesity have been on the rise in America in recent decades, at pretty similar levels, it begins to make sense why this correlation is so impactful to the body.

How Belly Fat Affects the Brain

Carrying any type of excess weight is no good for the body, but belly fat is often considered by health professionals to be the worst kind of fat. This is because belly fat, also known as visceral fat, has the capability to wrap itself around the organs in the body, which is why the abdomen tends to extend so greatly. Visceral fat can also send harmful molecules, such as cortisol, into the bloodstream and to the brain, which can lead to the development of cognitive and physical health concerns. 

The main concern around visceral fat and the brain relates to its effects on insulin in the body. An excess amount of visceral fat in the gut often increases a person's resistance to insulin. Over time, this decreases the amount of insulin activity in the brain. Studies are beginning to show a link between low insulin activity in the brain and the development of cognitive impairment and issues such as memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's. 

Preventing Belly Fat and Cognitive Decline

You'd be well off to start taking care of your body and mind sooner rather than later in order to prevent these issues from taking over your later life. Exercising on a regular basis is good for not only your body but your brain as well, so do your best to stay active every day. Eating healthy foods is also very important for keeping your cognitive and mental health up, so make sure you're preparing wholesome meals and snacks for yourself. Add plenty of leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit, and lean protein to each meal for optimal health benefits. Finally, be sure to keep checking in with your primary healthcare provider on a regular basis to monitor your health. 

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