Growth in Early Life Impacts Later Dementia Risk

May 9, 2008

Adults with greater knee height and arm span, which reflect nutrition and health status in the first two years of life, have a lower risk of developing dementia, according to study findings published in the May 6 issue of Neurology.

FRIDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Adults with greater knee height and arm span, which reflect nutrition and health status in the first two years of life, have a lower risk of developing dementia, according to study findings published in the May 6 issue of Neurology.

Tina L. Huang, Ph.D., of Tufts University in Boston, and colleagues followed 2,798 U.S. adults aged 65 and older participating in the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study in order to investigate whether knee height and arm span, markers for early life environment, are related to the development of dementia in later life.

Over a mean follow-up of 5.4 years, 480 individuals developed dementia, the researchers report. In women, for each 1-inch increase in knee height and arm span, the risk of dementia decreased by 16 percent and 7 percent, respectively, and risk of Alzheimer's disease decreased by 22 percent and 10 percent, respectively, the report indicates. In men, no association was found for knee height, but for each 1-inch increase in arm span, risk of dementia decreased by 6 percent, and risk of Alzheimer's disease decreased by 8 percent.

"Our findings with knee height and arm span are consistent with previous reports and suggest early life environment may play an important role in the determination of future dementia risk," the authors write. "Differences in knee height and maximal adult height are primarily determined in the first two years of life, coinciding with the expression of growth hormone receptors, which are believed to act primarily on the growth plate of long bones."

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