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For Immediate Release
February 23, 2010

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

Overweight Middle-Aged Adults at Greater Risk for Cognitive Decline in Later Life

The adverse affects of being overweight are not limited to physical function but also extend to neurological function, according to research in the latest issue of The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences (Volume 65A, Number 1).

The publication presents a collection of ten articles highlighting new findings related to obesity in older persons.

"One of the unanticipated consequences of improved medical management of cardiovascular disease is that many obese individuals reach old age,” said Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences Editor Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging. “We need a better understanding of the causes and consequences of obesity in older individuals — especially when obesity is associated with sarcopenia.”

A study headed by Anna Dahl, MS, of Sweden’s Jönköping University, found that individuals with higher midlife body mass index (BMI) scores had significantly lower general cognitive ability and significantly steeper decline than their thinner counterparts over time. These statistics were compiled from a study of Swedish twins that took place over the course of nearly 40 years, from 1963 to 2002; the results were the same for both men and women.

Other studies reported in the journal show that obesity appears particularly threatening in the presence of other health problems, such as poor muscle strength and depression.

Similarly, changes in weight also signify declines in overall health. A team of researchers led by Alice M. Arnold, PhD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, found that such fluctuations are significant indicators of future physical limitations and mortality in the elderly. Arnold and her colleagues used data from the Cardiovacscular Health Study, which included information from over 3,000 individuals aged 65 and older from 1992 to 1999. They discovered that a history of cyclically losing and gaining weight increased a person’s chance of having difficulty with activities of daily living — bathing, dressing, eating, etc. — by 28 percent.

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The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences is a refereed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,200+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Click here for a printable PDF version of this press release.

Mildred M. Seltzer Distinguished Service Recognition

Presented to C. Joanne Grabinski, PhD, Eastern Michigan University, and Mary Alice Wolf, PhD, Saint Joseph University.

This award honors colleagues who are near retirement or recently retired. Recipients are individuals who have been actively involved in AGHE through service on committees, as elected officers, and/or have provided leadership in one of AGHE’s grant-funded projects.

Administrative Leadership Award

Presented to Tammy M. Bray, PhD, Oregon State University

This award honors administrators on AGHE member campuses who have made exceptional efforts in support of gerontology or geriatrics education.

David A. Peterson Gerontology & Geriatrics Education Best Paper of the Volume Award

Presented to Nina M. Silverstein, PhD, University of Massachusetts Boston; Elizabeth Johns, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Judith A. Griffin, MA, MS, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the article “Students Explore Livable Communities.” Honorable mention is given to Emily J. Robbins, MS, Miami University; Jennifer M. Kinney, PhD, Miami University; and Cary S. Kart, PhD, Miami University, for the article “Promoting Active Engagement in Health Research: Lessons Learned from an Undergraduate Gerontology Capstone Course.”

The purpose of this award is to recognize excellence in scholarship in academic gerontology in AGHE’s official journal, Gerontology & Geriatrics Education.

Graduate Student Paper Award

Presented to Deborah Gray, MBA, University of Massachusetts Boston, for the paper “Weight and Wealth: The Relationship between Obesity and Net Worth for Pre-Retirement Age Men and Women.”

This award acknowledges excellence in scholarly work conducted by an AGHE Annual Meeting student attendee.

Book Award for Best Children’s Literature on Aging

Presented to Caitlin Dale Nicholson and Leona Morinn-Nelson for “Niwechihaw/I help” in the primary reader (pre-K to 2nd grade) category, and Ann Grifalconi and Jerry Pickney for “Ain’t Nobody A Stranger to Me” in the elementary reader (3rd to 5th grade) category.

This award recognizes portrayals of meaningful aging in children’s literature.