More Support for Diabetes Being Associated with Dementia

November 12, 2012

More Support for Diabetes Being Associated with Dementia

A Japanese study which was conducted from 1998 until 2003 has found that people with diabetes run a significantly higher risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease than people without diabetes. This work supports earlier research which identified the link between the two conditions. The study has recently been published in the medical journal Neurology.

More than 1,000 Japanese people took part in the study where it was identified that of those with diabetes 27% went on to develop dementia. Those with normal blood sugar levels reported that 20% developed dementia. The research also identified that people with higher than normal blood sugar levels, also known as pre diabetes, increased their chances of developing dementia.

Dr. Yutaka Kiyohara, a professor in the graduate school of medical science at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, and one of the research team said, “We have clearly demonstrated that diabetes is a significant risk factor for the development of dementia, especially of Alzheimer’s disease, in the general public”. He pointed out that type 2 diabetes is becoming a challenge worldwide and it’s vital that action is taken to deal with the problem.

Over 1,000 men and women, who were all older than 60 at the beginning of the test took a standard glucose test to check if they were diabetic or pre diabetic. These participants were then monitored for the next eleven years or so. The number developing dementia, in any form, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia or all cause dementia was 232.

The study had already identified that 150 people had diabetes, of these people 41 developed dementia. In the other group of 559 people without diabetes, 115 people went on to develop dementia. Of the people with pre diabetes 76, or 25% of the group of 308 went on to develop dementia in some form.

The researchers also stressed the significance of steady blood sugar control. They say that if someone has high sugar levels two hours after taking glucose then they may have a higher chance of developing dementia.

In the U.S. alone diabetes affects around 26 million people. The American Diabetes Association believes that 7 million people remain undiagnosed. Pre-diabetes is a much larger group with 79 million people reported to be affected. The trend keeps on increasing because being obese or overweight raises the chance of developing diabetes. More Americans are developing diabetes because more Americans are becoming obese and overweight.

The most common form of diabetes is type 2. This is the form that develops due to being overweight or obese. In type 2 diabetes the body does not have enough insulin to change sugars in food into energy for the body or the body is unable to absorb the insulin effectively.

Diabetes can be controlled, and often drugs are not required. A positive change of lifestyle is the way forward. More exercise and healthy eating is all that is needed. In other cases insulin or other drugs may be required. Diabetes is a serious condition, which if left unmanaged can lead to heart or kidney disease. In some cases it can cause blindness and even death.

One expert praised the Japanese study because of its size and length of period of investigation, whilst acknowledging that previous research had already confirmed the link between dementia and diabetes.

Another expert, Heather Snyder, senior associate director of medical scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, agrees that the link between diabetes and dementia has already been known about but points out that the reason for the link has still to be discovered.

Because there has been recent work done which appears to indicate that administering insulin during the early stages of dementia may be helpful Snyder says that the Alzheimer’s Association will be providing funds to take this research forward.

She feels that in recent years there has been much meaningful research into Alzheimer’s disease. She goes on to explain that Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder which is related to older ages which progressively impedes thinking and functioning.

Another reason that diabetes and dementia could be linked is because diabetes has an input to vascular disease. An expert explains that if the heart is not working well then the brain and other organs will be affected by a lack of oxygen. Dr. Spyros Mezitis, a clinical endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, “Diabetes is a major risk factor for vascular disease. If the blood vessels are not allowing enough oxygen to get to the brain, you can get dementia”.

He thinks that this study and others like it will “change the way we practice medicine”. By providing quicker referrals of people with diabetes to neurologists when they show signs of memory or other thinking problems will lead to a better level of treatment. Mezitis adds that patients must be responsible and do everything possible to avoid the progression of vascular disease and to keep blood sugar levels within the normal range.

In conclusion Heather Snyder says that what is required is another study with the proportions of the Framingham heart study. She is referring to a study which begun in 1948 in Framingham, Mass., and lasted for many generations and has contributed to the bank of knowledge concerning cardiovascular disease.

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