By COURTNEY CULEY
Capital News Service
LANSING – The number of Michigan residents with dementia is on the rise and the state’s increasing obesity rate could be linked.
Studies show that obesity in mid-life is among many risk factors for developing dementia later in life, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Michigan residents with dementia increased 6 percent, according to the department. The numbers are expected to increase.
In 2000, the Michigan obesity rate was 20 to 24 percent of adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, 31.7 percent of Michigan adults were considered obese, according to the health department. Five million adults and 800,000 children have weight problems.
Dementia is a deterioration of thinking that affects a person’s daily living, said Stephen Campbell, program coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Great Lakes Chapter. Alzheimer’s is one type of dementia.
There is a very strong link between Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, he said. Diabetes is prevalent in obese people.
“We know what’s good for the heart is good for the brain,” Stephen Campbell said. “Being obese is not good for the heart.”
About 240,000 Michigan residents have dementia, according to the Michigan Dementia Coalition, a group that aims to improve the quality of life for people with dementia.
Like other obesity-linked diseases, it’s costly.
Family members and friends often care for dementia patients. If those caregivers were paid, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that Michigan would have spent more than $6 billion in 2010.
An estimated $202.6 billion was spent on dementia caregivers nationally, according to the association.
Due to high costs associated with dementia, the state encourages people to be proactive.
“While there are no known actions or behaviors that prevent developing dementia, Michigan Department of Community Health is encouraging people of all ages to eat healthy and exercise to reduce the incidence of obesity,” said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health.
The connection between obesity and dementia is indirect.
Obesity can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression, said Jo Campbell, coordinator for the Michigan Dementia Coalition. The connection between obesity and dementia comes from those related conditions.
“Obesity in itself, unless it’s complicated by a medical condition, is not a cause of dementia,” Jo Campbell said.
Dementia acts as a secondary condition of obesity, she said.
The state health department considers obesity and its associated risks a top priority, Minicuci said.
Michigan taxpayers already spend lots of money on obesity-related issues.
In 2008 alone, Michigan spent an estimated $3.1 billion on obesity-related medical care, according to the state health agency. In 2018, the state expects that Michigan will spend $12.5 billion if the rates continue.
The department recently held a summit on obesity to discuss prevention and reduction measures in Michigan, Minicuci said.
“Recommendations from the summit are being used to craft a statewide work plan to address this critical issue,” she said.
An ad campaign, much like Pure Michigan, could be developed to raise awareness of the obesity problem, said Olga Dazzo, the department’s director.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By COURTNEY CULEY