Most men and post-menopausal women tend to build up fat in the abdominal region, the classic apple shape. Some of this fat resides just under the skin and is called subcutaneous fat. But much of it lies between and around the organs in the abdominal cavity—the liver, kidneys, pancreas and intestines—and is called visceral fat.
Studies have shown that having fat around your middle increases the risk of heart disease by 70 per cent and your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 80 per cent.
Furthermore, women who are apple-shaped are at greater risk of dying prematurely due to a heart attack or stroke.
However, if they manage to live beyond 70, they run a greater risk of dementia.
The grim news for those women who carry fat around their waist was revealed by scientists yesterday after extensive tests.
Deborah Gustafson and colleagues at the Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University in Sweden studied the health of 1,500 women and found that those with broader waists than hips were twice as likely to develop dementia when they got older.
The research was started at the end of the 1960s when almost 1,500 women between the ages of 38 and 60 underwent comprehensive examinations and answered questions about their health and lifestyle.
A follow-up survey around 32 years later showed that 161 women had developed dementia, with the average age of diagnosis being 75.
It revealed that women who were broader round the waist than the hips in middle age ran slightly more than twice the risk of developing dementia when they got old.
About one in 20 people over 65 will develop dementia, which causes forgetfulness, impaired speech and problems with recognition and orientation.
The estimated levels of prevalence of dementia in Malaysia in 2005 is 63,000 and this number is expected to double over the next 15 years.
D. R. Gustafson, K. Bäckman, M. Waern, S. Östling, X. Guo, P. Zandi, M. M. Mielke, C. Bengtsson and I. Skoog. Adiposity indicators and dementia over 32 years in Sweden. Neurology 2009;73:1559-1566
Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation Malaysia, March 26, 2009
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