Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease may be Linked

November 12, 2012

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease may be Linked

People With Diabetes and Prediabetes have a higher risk of Developing Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease according to Study

A new study has been published in Neurology which has found that the chances of developing memory problems in the future doubles if the person has diabetes. The memory problems include dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People who have the condition prediabetes also appear to have an increased risk too.

The study was carried out by researchers from Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. They followed the 1,017 participants, who were all 60 years or older, for 11 years. At the beginning of the study the participants were checked for diabetes or prediabetes by means of a glucose tolerance test and at the 11 year point the participants were tested for dementia.

After 11 years almost 25% of the participants, 232 people, had developed memory problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The figures highlighting the increased risk for diabetes sufferers showed that from 150 people with diabetes, 41 developed dementia. However people who did not suffer from diabetes had a lower incidence of dementia, 115 people from a group of 559 non diabetic people developed dementia. The study also found that people with prediabetes also had an increased chance of developing dementia.

Presently the association between diabetes and dementia requires further research if we are to understand it fully. However this study adds to the body of evidence that supports the theory that factors which have a positive affect on the heart are also positive for the brain.

Zoe Arvanitakis, MD, is a neurologist at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and she says that our understanding is still at an early stage regarding the association between diabetes and dementia and many questions remain unanswered.

The link between both conditions is still open to debate, but she says that some explanations appear rational. Because diabetes has been found to increase the risk of stroke there may be a tenuous link as stroke patients are known to be more prone to dementia and other mental issues.

Arvanitakis was asked if lowering your risk of developing diabetes, should you expect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other kinds of dementia associated with aging to lower too. Her reply was,”It is too early to say that, but food that is good for the heart is also good for the brain”.

It is now clear to experts in the field that a healthy lifestyle will reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Whether taking regular exercise, stopping smoking and eating healthily will stop dementia is as yet unknown. Arvanitakis concurs, “It’s too premature to say if you prevent diabetes, you would not develop dementia”.

Arvanitakis points out that there are other factors which can affect the risk of developing dementia other than diabetes or prediabetes. She says that family history can have a bearing on any outcome, but adds, “The mechanism linking diabetes and dementia still needs to be sorted out. It is important to stay healthy and prevent vascular risk factors from getting out of hand. If you have diabetes, get your blood sugar under control”.

The vascular risk factors she is talking about include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. She emphasizes that regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet must be part of the lifestyle and ends by saying, “Hopefully, this will help in the long run”.

Cholesterol and Dementia

Rachel Whitmer, PhD, is a research scientist and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland, California and she says diabetes and blood sugar abnormalities are not the only factors that can increase the risk of developing dementia.

Earlier research has shown that the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increases because cholesterol levels are high. However Whitmer is upbeat and says, “The silver lining to the cloud is that yes, vascular risk factors are also associated with dementia, but they are modifiable. You can change your cholesterol levels with exercise and diet”.

She says that for diabetes and prediabetes the situation is the same. You should be thinking about the future now because although dementia shows itself in the later years action today could delay the onset or even prevent it developing. Start doing things and eating things that is good for your heart, that way you know that it is good for your brain too.


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