We can believe a lot of the correlations out there about Alzheimer’s disease: that elders without hobbies or activities are more likely to develop the disease, that smoking may protect against it (once believed, now disproven).
But here’s a finding we didn’t anticipate: Body mass changes before the cognitive decline begins. And looking at weight sounds like a better, cheaper predictor of AD than most of the high-tech scans under development:
“It turns out that Alzheimer’s disease not only results in cognitive dysfunction, but also may have a variety of other symptoms, depending on which brain regions are affected. If the disease pathology affects a region of the brain that controls weight, your body mass may decline prior to loss of cognition.”
Based on the Religious Orders Study findings and other evidence, the researchers suggest that loss of body mass could be added to the “relatively short list” of signs doctors can use to predict a person’s risk of developing AD.
“There are actually very few predictors of Alzheimer’s disease,” Bennett explains. “This study makes us think about the spectrum of clinical signs of AD beyond changes in memory and behavior and motor skills. Changes in BMI are easy to measure in a doctor’s office without an expensive scan,” he says.
More info on AD prevention at Alzheimers.org (and be sure to check out the prevention pamplet — called “Genes, Lifestyles and Crossword Puzzles”)