There May Be A Link Between Diabetes And Dementia

Physicians have long known that diabetes can cause secondary problems in many organs: the eyes, leading to blindness, the kidneys, leading to kidney failure, and many skin problems, which can range from diabetic ulcers to actual gangrene and amputations. Diabetes is one of the top diseases responsible for hospitalizations in the U.S., and there are two types: Type I and Type II.

Type I is considered to be an autoimmune disorder, in which the pancreas simply fails to secrete insulin, a hormone vital for utilizing blood sugar in body cells. This type generally is seen in children and very young adults, and there is not cure besides a pancreatic transplant.

Type II is a bit more complex. It is commonly diagnosed after years of insulin resistance, or an inability of the body to respond to insulin over time, making the pancreas produce more and more insulin. This can cause the pancreas to fail. People most at risk for Type II diabetes include the obese, those with hypertension, African Americans and Native Americans, and those who are sedentary and who consume a diet high in simple carbohydrates. There is also a genetic predisposition. This type of diabetes can be treated by weight reduction, exercise, diet, and certain medications. Insulin is used when all other methods have failed. It is a debilitating, costly disease that continues to grow in the U.S. and all other developed countries each year.

Now several diseases, including diabetes, have been linked to dementia. People with mild cognitive impairment may be more likely to one day get dementia if they also have diabetes, depression, or low levels of the B vitamin folate, researchers say. Mild cognitive impairment includes symptoms that range from mild forgetfulness, inability to perform moderate to complex tasks, and trouble forming articulate speech. While many develop mild cognitive impairment in older age, some go on to develop dementia, which is a more severe form of cognitive impairment, and is often debilitating, leaving the individual incapable of living on their own. About 46 percent of people with MCI will get dementia within three years, compared to only three percent of people who have normal age-related thinking declines.

How diabetes may affect dementia could happen in several ways. This may be because diabetes affects blood vessels, including vasculature in the brain, leading to a lack of oxygen, which may cause dementia. Dr. Clare Walton, research manager at Alzheimer’s Society in the U.K, says there are some things that people can do to mitigate their chances of getting dementia.

“While there’s currently no cure [for dementia], we know that the best way to reduce your dementia risk is to eat a Mediterranean diet rich in oily fish and vegetables, keep physically active, not smoke and have your blood pressure regularly checked, as well as blood sugar levels.”

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