Diabetes is a growing problem within the United States and although it primarily affects blood sugar, new research suggests that it can also contribute to memory loss as well. Diabetes is a chronic condition where a person cannot produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or does not properly use the insulin that is being produced (type 2 diabetes). Type 2 diabetes is the type of diabetes that can be prevented with a change in lifestyle factors, so it is not a normal part of aging.
A person with diabetes can see spikes and drops in blood sugar, and having the condition can raise the risk for many other complications as well. Some health complications associated with diabetes include anxiety and depression, celiac disease, eye damage, kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, nerve damage, and it can even affect your sexual health. The latest findings have uncovered that diabetes can also raise a person’s risk of dementia.
The study, published in Diabetics Care, found that women with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk for dementia because diabetes damages or blocks blood vessels to the brain. The researchers analyzed data from 2.5 million participants included in 14 studies. They concluded that women with diabetes have a 20 percent higher risk of dementia – this was in comparison to men.
Although women were found to have a higher risk than men, both genders saw an increased risk of developing dementia if they had type 2 diabetes – in fact, a 60 percent increase compared to people without diabetes.
Study author, Dr. Rachel Huxley, said, “It’s plausible that 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. We still don’t fully understand why women with diabetes are at excess risk of vascular disease and it may be related to sex hormones,” Dr. Huxley then added, “It may also be that blood glucose levels in women with diabetes are much more … difficult to control than in men with diabetes.”
Although the study did not prove that diabetes causes dementia, it did reveal a close-knit association between the two conditions. And although it isn’t necessarily clear as to why women face a higher risk for dementia than men, researchers stress the importance of early screening in women to begin preventative methods as soon as prediabetes is detected, in order to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Huxley also added that those living with diabetes should not panic about developing dementia. She explained, “Individuals at risk of developing diabetes and those with overt diabetes can do many things to reduce their risk of dementia, such as quitting smoking, increasing the level of physical activity, eating a healthy diet, minimizing alcohol intake and even losing a few pounds.”
“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. There’s some truth in the adage, ‘A healthy body equals a healthy mind,’” Dr. Huxley concluded.
As the researchers explained, dementia is not inevitable and although there is still much to learn about the mechanisms of dementia, following these tips can help improve cognitive function and delay the onset of dementia.
Aside from these tips helping to delay dementia, they are also the fundamentals for overall good health and they should be practiced daily.