Diabetes May Increase Risk of Dementia by 60%
This entry was posted on January 15, 2016.
Type 2 diabetes is a growing concern worldwide, with obesity acting as a primary risk factor. Characterized by insulin resistance and high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes is accompanied by numerous other complications such as heart disease and stroke. This new study suggests that dementia could be added to the worrying list of complications.
The study, published December 2015 in the journal Diabetes Care, reviewed data from 14 different studies with a combined total of 2.5 million participants. Researchers reported that the risk of developing any form of dementia was 60% higher in men and women with type 2 diabetes compared to men and women without the disease. Women with type 2 diabetes were also found to have a 20% higher risk of developing vascular dementia than men.
Vascular dementia differs from Alzheimer’s disease, and is a result of damaged or blocked blood vessels supplying the brain, causing memory, thinking and language difficulties.
Study author Dr. Rachel Huxley explained it is “plausible that some of the same mechanisms that drive the greater excess risk of heart disease and stroke in women with diabetes are also causing the excess risk of vascular dementia”. Author Dr. James Ellison added “diabetes damages blood vessels, and aging of the blood vessels is a major contributor to the development of vascular dementia”.
It is not yet understood as to why women with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of vascular disease than men. Huxley proposed that the increased risk may be related to hormones, or the greater challenges women with diabetes face controlling their blood glucose levels.
It is also not yet known why both men and women with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of all types of dementia, including nonvascular dementia.
The study, being observational in nature, did not prove that type 2 diabetes causes dementia, but it did suggest a strong association.
While frightening, Huxley was adamant that people with diabetes should not panic. She explained that people with diabetes, or those at risk of developing the disease, can reduce their risk of dementia by making healthy lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, eating a healthy diet, minimizing alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy weight.
Huxley concluded, “The take-home message is that for many people – with and without diabetes – dementia is not inevitable. Maintaining a healthy weight, watching what you eat and keeping your brain fit and active are some of the things that may reduce future risk of dementia.”