The findings of a new study on diabetes and dementia were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. The results of the study may be able to help reduce the risk of dementia in diabetic patients with poor glycemic control.
“Our study looks at the link between diabetes and the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases,” study author Dr. Carlos Celis-Morales told us. “We know that people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, whether they also experience a higher risk of dementia is less clear. Therefore, we would like to better understand the link between diabetes but also glycemic control with dementia risk and whether these associations are explained by existing risk factors such as being obese, a smoker or having existing heart diseases or other chronic diseases.”
World diabetes rates are rising. In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that the number of people with diabetes increased from 108 million to 422 million over three and a half decades. That means the prevalence of diabetes in adults was over eight per cent in 2014.
People with diabetes used to live 10 years less than those without diabetes, however, due to improvements in treatment, diabetic patients have increased their life expectancy. This means that they will also increase their risk of developing other chronic diseases strongly associated with aging, such as dementia.
Kidney failure, stroke, heart attack, blindness, and limb amputation are major causes of diabetes. Diabetes was the result of over 1.5 million deaths worldwide in 2016. High blood glucose was the result of 2.2 million deaths. Premature mortality from diabetes increased by 5% between the years 2000 and 2016 across the globe and half of those deaths are in people under the age of 70. Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in 2016.
“Our research team at Glasgow University specialized in diabetes research and collaborated closely with researchers at Gothenburg University, who are currently leading all work related to the diabetes register in Sweden,” Dr. Celis-Morales told us. “Although we work on many aspects of diabetes prevention but also diabetes-related complications, we have an interest in dementia research linked to diabetes and other heart related diseases. Specially if we consider that cardiovascular risk factors are related to a higher dementia risk.”
To test the theory, researchers used data from the Swedish Diabetes register, which included 2.2 million people aged >18y. Of these, almost 400,000 were diabetic and more than 1.8 million did not have diabetes. Researchers also extracted information from patients’ hospital records data regarding health status, metabolic health, body weight, smoking and existing chronic diseases. The participants included in the study were followed for seven years on average.
Researchers found that poor glycemic control increases your risk of dementia, especially vascular dementia. The risk of vascular dementia in people with diabetes is 35% higher than those without diabetes. However, if you have diabetes and you don’t have good glucose control then your risk will be 95% higher than those who are diabetic but who have a good glycemic control.
“We expected to see a higher risk in diabetes patients, however, that vascular dementia risk almost tripled in people with diabetes and poor glycemic control compared to those with diabetes but normal glycemic control was of clinical relevance,” Dr. Celis-Morales told us. “Although these findings have been derived from a nationally representative sample of the Swedish population, we need to derive new evidence from other type of studies such as mendelian randomization studies that corroborate such findings. Moreover, we also need to investigate whether this excess dementia risk observed in diabetic patients from a white-European background are also observed in other populations from different ethnic background.”
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com