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Sorry, but yes. In fact, it triples the risk.

A new study by Rachel Whitmer, a researcher with Kaiser Permanente, has found that a potbelly in middle age increases the risk of senility by more than 300 percent. "The take-home message is that it's not only what you weigh, but it's where you carry your weight in midlife," said Dr. Whitmer.

We already know that where you carry your excess weight is important. Weight around the middle is far more metabolically active than excess fat in the thighs and butt, which may be unsightly and annoying, but isn't as dangerous. A big belly is a sure sign of insulin resistance, a major factor in diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The rule of thumb: if you're a woman with a 35" waist ( 40" for men) there's a good chance you've got insulin resistance.

In the new study, published in the March 26 online issue of Neurology, researchers measured the abdominal fat of over 6,000 health-care plan members between the ages of 40 and 45 back in the 1960's and 70's. Then they looked to see what happened to them between 1994-2006, when they reached their 70's and beyond.

The researchers found that obese people who had the most abdominal fat were 3.6 times more likely to develop dementia than those with the least amount of abdominal fat. Even being "merely" overweight with a large belly was a risk- those who were overweight and had large bellies while in their 40's were over twice as likely to develop dementia decades later.

Every baby boomer I know worries to some extent about memory loss; most will tell you that Alzheimers or dementia is one of the worst fates they can imagine.

The good news is that you can lose weight and reduce the risk not only for dementia, but for a host of other conditions you don't want to live with either.

Is it difficult? Sure. It can be.

But consider the alternative.

And if you are overweight, consider how great- and how empowered- you'll feel once youdolose weight.
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