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The Connection between Type 2 Diabetes and Dementia

Categories: Diabetes Center
Diabetes and Dementia are two diseases that are on the rise and are becoming more common. While the growing older can bring about a natural decline in brain function, people with diabetes may have the added challenge of increased risk of developing dementia. Doctors and researchers are finding the connection between the diseases to be hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hyperglycemia normally occurs in patients with diabetes. The brain uses glucose for energy and cognitive function can be impaired when blood glucose drops too low. Poor control of blood sugar greatly contributes to this increased risk.

Symptoms of dementia include a decreased ability to perform everyday activities and learned skills such as cooking, driving to familiar places or enjoying hobbies or pastimes. Forgetting recent conversations, instructions or events and having difficulty naming familiar objects, people or places may also be signs of dementia.

According to a 1996 Rotterdam study involving more than 6,000 participants ages 55 to 99, diabetes nearly doubles the risk of dementia. “The brain in those with diabetes, like the body, is more prone to oxidative damage and inflammation,” says Dan Nadeau, MD, program director of the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center, Dr. Kris V. Iyer Endowed Chair in Diabetes Care and endocrinologist at Hoag Medical Group. “People who have high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at higher risk.”

The good news is simple lifestyle changes can dramatically decrease the risk of developing dementia due to type 2 diabetes. “A healthy diet with plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables is likely helpful in protecting the brain,” says Dr. Nadeau. “The basics of glucose control and exercise are important as well.” Strive for 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.