by Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation
Men and women with Alzheimer’s disease often lose muscle mass, and the loss of muscle may be linked to shrinkage of the brain. The findings, which appeared in the Archives of Neurology, a medical journal from the American Medical Association, highlight the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is not just a disease of the brain but of the body as well.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive illness that shuts down the body as it attacks the mind. But while most people think of Alzheimer’s as a disease that affects memory and thinking skills, the physical toll of Alzheimer’s is often overlooked. In the current study, the authors found that loss of lean muscle mass – the weight of a person’s muscles, bones and internal organs, rather than body fat – was linked to an increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
Earlier studies have shown that seniors who quickly shed pounds are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and mental decline may be particularly rapid in such cases. Dementia may be especially likely in those who were overweight to begin with and then lose weight. Weight loss may precede the onset of Alzheimer’s by 10 to 20 years in some cases, suggesting that the disease may have a long latency period during which subtle changes like weight loss or minor memory problems may occur.