Type 2 diabetes: High blood sugar could increase risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

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Glucose is the body’s main source of fuel. The pancreas produces insulin to convert glucose from food into energy. In people with insulin resistance such as those with type 2 diabetes, cells do not respond adequately to insulin, prompting the pancreas to produce more of the hormone. Eventually, the pancreas fails to keep up. Without insulin, sugar levels rise in the bloodstream, which can damage the kidneys and other organs. A growing body of research has pinpointed high blood sugar levels also affecting a person’s brain which could increase their risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

The connection between type 2 diabetes and cognitive problems later in life isn’t fully understood.

Not all studies have confirmed this connection however many do suggest that people with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Research is still unclear on whether taking steps to prevent or control diabetes may help reduce your risk of cognitive decline.

In a study published in Science Direct, the link between type 2 diabetes, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was investigated. 

The study noted: “Currently, there is evidence that microvascular complications, atherosclerosis and severe hypoglycaemic events increase dementia risk.

“However, for a more complete understanding of risk factors for dementia in type 2 diabetes a lifetime perspective is needed.

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“This should identify which individuals are at increased risk, what are vulnerable periods in life, and what are windows of opportunity for treatment.

“Epidemiological studies have been linked with type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

“Micro/macro-vascular complications and severe hypoglycaemic increase dementia risk.

“Prevention of vascular damage is key target in the prevention of dementia in type 2 diabetes.

“A lifetime perspective is needed on risk factors for dementia in type 2 diabetes.

Dr James Mortimer, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida said: “We know that people with diabetes (whose blood glucose is higher than 125 mg/dL) are at increased risk.

“Even pre-diabetes (110 to 125 mg/dL) has shown up in some studies.

“But this is pre-pre-diabetes, in the 90 to 100 mg/dL range.”

Many people with diabetes have brain changes that are hallmarks of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, said the Mayo Clinic.

The health site continued: “Some researchers think that each condition fuels the damage caused by the other.

“Diabetes may also increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition in which people experience more thinking (cognitive) and memory problems than are usually present in normal aging.”

The good news is that by controlling your blood sugar levels by adopting a healthier lifestyle you can not only lower your blood sugar levels to a more normal range but also reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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