Having diabetes makes you more prone to dementia than being genetically at-risk, research suggests.
Oxford and Exeter University experts believe suffering a heart attack or stroke may pose the same threat.
Adults with all three obesity-fuelled conditions were three times more likely to get dementia, compared to ‘healthy’ people without any.
Charities today said the evidence was now clear that ‘what’s good for your heart is also good for your head’.
The findings, from an analysis of over 200,000 Britons, reiterate the importance of exercising and eating healthily, especially .
Dozens of studies have linked poor heart health with dementia, which affects nearly 1million people in the UK and 6.5million in the US.
A study rated the diet of more than 1,000 older people for anti-inflammatory foods and tracked them over an average of three years. Those with the most anti-inflammatory diet consumed around 20 pieces of fruit, 19 servings of vegetables, four servings of legumes and 11 cups of coffee or tea in the average week. Compared to this group, those with the least anti-inflammatory diet were three times more likely to get dementia
Obesity fuelling fatty liver disease ‘ticking time-bomb’, experts warn
Rocketing rates of obesity are putting millions at risk of an advanced form of fatty liver disease, experts warned today.
A record number of people were admitted to hospital with obesity-related conditions in 2020.
The British Liver Trust warned that without action the situation will only get worse, putting additional pressure on the NHS.
Around one in five Britons have non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
It is a preventable form of fatty liver disease which, if caught early enough, can be reversed through lifestyle change.
But if ignored it can progress to non-alcohol related steatohepatitis (NASH), which is a life-threatening form of fatty liver disease.
Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust said: ‘Being obese or overweight is the main risk factor for non-alcohol related fatty liver disease and experts predict that it will become the leading cause of liver disease in the UK in the next ten years.’
In May, the Government announced that it will be delaying policies to tackle obesity in the UK that would have seen a ban on multi-buy deals for junk food and restrictions on advertising unhealthy foods.
Ms Healy added: ‘The UK has the highest obesity levels in Europe with two thirds of adults being overweight.
‘We need a significant response to address this.
‘As a nation, we need to recognise that this is not just down to individuals but is a public health issue – we have created an environment where being overweight is the norm.
‘The government must urgently tackle the accessibility and abundance of unhealthy food which is significantly cheaper than healthy alternatives.
‘This has to start with reinstating plans to restrict multibuy deals and advertising of unhealthy foods with immediate effect.’
The new study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, is one of the biggest to probe the link.
Lead author Dr Xin You Tai said: ‘Dementia is a major global issue, with predictions that 135million worldwide will have the devastating condition by 2050.
‘We found having such heart-related conditions is linked to dementia risk to a greater extent than genetic risk.
‘So whatever genetic risk you were born with, you can potentially make a big impact on reducing risk of dementia by looking after heart and metabolic health throughout life.’
Experts studied over-sixties in the UK Biobank, a database which contains the health records of half a million Britons, including brain imaging and genetic data.
They divided 200,000 participants into low medium and high-risk categories, based on their genetic likelihood of getting dementia by carrying genes such as APOE.
The team also logged which patients suffered cardiometabolic conditions, which are also known risk factors for dementia.
Of the participants studied, nearly 20,000 had been diagnosed with one of the three cardiometabolic conditions — diabetes, stroke or heart attack.
Around 2,000 people suffered from two, while 122 had all three.
The team found that the more of these three condition that a person had, the higher their risk of dementia.
Brain scans, available for 12,000 participants, showed widespread brain damage for those with more than one heart-related health condition.
Adults with a high genetic risk of dementia only had deteriorations in isolated areas of their brains.
Brain cells need a constant supply of blood and oxygen to work properly. Heart attacks and strokes interrupt this blood supply and can lead to loss of brain function.
Experts believe diabetes can lead to dementia as it triggers high blood sugar which is known to damage the hippocampus — the memory centre of the brain.
Exeter’s Professor David Llewellyn, senior study author said: ‘Many studies look at the risk of a single condition in relation to dementia, but health is more complex than that.
‘We know that many patients actually have a range of conditions.
‘Our study tells us that for people who have a diagnosis of diabetes, stroke or a heart attack it is particularly important to look after their health and ensure they are on the right treatment, to prevent further problems as well as to reduce their dementia risk.’
Dr Kenneth Langa, study co-author and medicine expert at the University of Michigan, said: ‘Our research indicates that protecting the heart throughout life likely also has significant benefits for the brain.
‘To look after your heart, you can engage in regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and do everything possible to ensure blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels fall within guidelines.’
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.
It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.
In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.
Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society