As the U.S. population ages, and as research shows the benefits of massage therapy to seniors, massage for the elderly may grow as a specialty. New research shows Alzheimer’s patients may lose muscle mass, according to a report in the April issue of Archives of Neurology.

Lean mass, the weight of an individual’s bones, muscles and organs without body fat, appears to decline among Alzheimer’s patients. These decreases may be associated with declines in brain volume and function, the researchers noted in a press release.

Unintended weight loss often occurs among individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and frequently begins prior to memory loss or other cognitive symptoms, according to background information in the article. This weight loss is associated with the severity of dementia and with faster progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Although obesity in midlife is a risk factor for developing dementia, overweight and obesity in late life are associated with lower dementia risk,” the University of Kansas School of Medicine researchers write.

The findings suggest that lean mass, as opposed to body mass index or other measures of overall weight or fat levels, may be a more sensitive measure of the changes in body composition associated with dementia.

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