Obesity Linked to Poor Memory in Older Women

Obesity can affect cognitive function in post-menopausal women, according to a new study, which shows a correlation between brain health and body mass index.

The more an older woman weighs, the worse her memory becomes, according to a new study out of Northwestern University.

The study included 8,745 women from the Women’s Health Initiative ages 65 to 79 years old. Researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure, height, weight and waist and hip circumference, and study subjects answered questions about their health and lifestyles. They also took a test that is used by doctors to screen for dementia and cognitive function.

All women involved in the study scored in the normal range on the cognitive function test, but women who were of a normal weight did better than those with a higher body mass index (BMI).

According to researchers, the effect on memory loss was greater in “pear-shaped” women who had excess weight around their hips, compared to those with excess weight around their waists, or “apple” shapes. Among participants who were overweight or obese, women who had a higher waist-to-hip ratio performed better on cognitive tests than women who had a smaller waist.

It was also found that for every one point increase in body mass index, women scored one percent lower on the memory portion of the exam.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Diana Kerwin says that this study shows that being a healthy weight has advantages in all facets of life. “What [the study] tells you is if you maintain your ideal body weight, it’s not only good for your general well-being, but it’s also good for your brain health as you get older,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Study results appeared last week in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

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