Being overweight or obese can cause memory loss and dementia. Although being overweight or obese may contribute to the severity of Alzheimer’s disease or other senile dementias, it more often contributes to developing vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia is caused by a cerebral vascular infarct or permanent damage to the vascular supply of the brain. This type of dementia is second only to Alzheimer’s disease in the leading causes of dementia among adults. Atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis both limit the blood supply to the brain by narrowing the blood vessels, and thus inhibiting sufficient oxygen and nutrients from reaching our memory centers. This may cause irreparable damage to our memory and if left untreated, can significantly limit our ability to perform activities of daily living. Most people who develop this type of dementia have had high blood pressure
in the past. Other causes, related to being overweight, are high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and heart disease. This type of dementia usually develops over a period of 5-10 years, although timeframes may vary depending on the severity of one’s vascular disease. (22)
Clinicians often times use a test called the Allen Cognitive Levels to assess a person with dementia and see what cognitive capabilities they still have. They can see if the person is still safe to function in society with or without significant assistance from other people. The test scores a person between 0 and 6, depending on how well they perform. 0 indicates a person who is in a comma (little if any cognitive function) and 6 indicates someone who can plan and efficiently organize activities and tasks days in advance.
Vascular disease can often be preventable. Maintaining a healthy body weight and staying physically fit through exercise and sound nutrition will help reduce your risk of developing vascular dementia.
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