In the News: The Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer's


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Diabetes is a serious condition that can affect the heart, nerves, vision and other vital organs. But did you know that diabetes might also increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and even increase the speed of progression once the disease strikes? Research continues to demonstrate a link between the two conditions.

Genetics is still the primary risk factor associated with dementia, so it's not a given that having diabetes means you'll develop Alzheimer's. Yet research continues to show a relationship between them. Diabetes damages blood vessels, and is connected with vascular dementia a type of dementia caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain. Many people have vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease at the same time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "While not all studies confirm the connection, many researchers have shown that people who have diabetes are at higher risk of eventually developing Alzheimer's independent of their risk of vascular dementia. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a transition stage between the cognitive changes of normal aging and the more serious problems caused by Alzheimer's disease."

Ongoing studies continue to explore this relationship. For example, a current Columbia University study following 156 Alzheimer's patients found that those who had a history of diabetes and high cholesterol worsened faster than those who did not. One thing that's not clear: whether diabetes increases the risk by causing changes in the brain that underlie Alzheimer's, or if diabetes just puts further stress on a brain that's already struggling with the disease.

Although there's no definite way to protect yourself from Alzheimer's, taking care of yourself through a healthy diet and regular exercise can help reduce your risk. Controlling diabetes and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control prevent problems with blood supply to the brain that can cause memory problems.

Had you heard about this link before? It's another good reason to live a healthy lifestyle and take care of yourself, don't you think?

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  • AMBER461
    Good to know because my husband is type 2 diabetic and he is showing signs of dementia, so I really have to keep my eyes on him. - 11/29/2013   10:04:15 PM
  • 45
    I have T2 diabetes. I'm experiencing considerable decline in my capacity to focus and remember things. I had a heart attack about 6 months ago, and the cardiologists unclogged 3 arteries. Since the wake-up call, I've lost almost 40 lbs., am considerably more active and careful with what I eat. I'd sure like to know if the changes can improve my memory. Is the disease reversible? - 8/6/2010   7:27:28 AM
  • 44
    So many times, it sounds like people blame diabetics for their disease. My mom has both and she was diligent a out her diet! Despite someone's best efforts, the disease can be out of control. This research isn't a surprise...we have known for many years that diabetes effects the vasculature of the heart, kidneys, eyes, and extremities. Why wouldn't it effect the vascature everywhere?? It is just a horrible disease. - 7/28/2010   8:38:52 AM
  • 43
    Thanks for the news, albeit it ain't great news. If only that testing on the intestine operation that they are doing in Europe would be done so we could have it here, at least half the people with diabetes would not have it anymore. Sigh! - 4/10/2010   10:03:02 PM
    My mom had both. What a sad end for such a great lady. I was told at my last Dr. visit that I am a good candidate for diabetes. I have since began a healthier diet and regular exercise at the Y. I will see Dr. in July so hope to surprise both of us. This news will definately help keep me on track, as my biggest fear is alzheimers at a time in my life when I when I will be retired and free to really enjoy my life with a healthy mind. - 6/9/2009   3:35:57 PM
  • 41
    My father has both. It is heartbreaking. Regretfully he does not pay as much attention to his diabetes as he should, and I think this has made the Alzheimer's worse. To a large degree I feel like I am trying to lose weight because I don't want to end up like him (he is 85; I am in my 50s). - 4/28/2009   11:17:34 PM
  • 40
    I was diagnosed with T2 diabetes over 10 yrs ago, and over the years have become very insuslin resistant. Oft times I will be talking and forget what I am saying, put something down and 2 seconds later can't find it,or even think of doing something, not doing it but think I have. The scariest is forgetting that I have taken my med so I found myself taking them again. Now I use a day-of-the-week dispenser so if the slot is empty, I know I've taken the pill. - 4/4/2009   7:37:10 AM
  • 39
    Thanks for sharing the information!!! My grandfather has both diabetes and Alzheimer's!!! - 4/3/2009   11:54:13 AM
  • 38
    I just read about this link yesterday in one of my health magazines that I subscribe too. Another reason for me to be more and more serious about getting to a healthy weight- as if I needed any more reasons. - 3/31/2009   12:06:59 AM
  • 37
    I had not heard of the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer's before. I hope that science will eventually find a cure for both. Meanwhile, it's another good reason to eat healthfully and exercise regularly. - 3/26/2009   9:25:18 PM
    I hadn't heard of this, but I DID hear that excessive sugar consumption was linked to dementia, so it makes sense. My maternal grandmother was a dietary diabetic (adult onset). My paternal grandfather was lifelong insulin-dependent. So far, I have managed to avoid diabetes (praise God!) I know some people who have successfully reversed their diabetes by going completely vegan. I have a friend who isn't quite there yet, but by cutting out most of the meat in her diet, she has managed to bring her sugar levels way down. There is an organization called Hallelujah Acres that can definitely help anyone with diabetes. They have a website. And a mailing list. - 3/25/2009   9:42:37 PM
  • 35
    I have heard also heard alzheimer's referred to as diabetes 3, so I think there is definitely a link. Fellow members - please try to keep your weight under control, often times this is what can lead to a diabetes diagnosis. My mom was diagnosed in her mid 50's (which I am approaching) after no family history, she's in her mid 70's now but I really worry about her as she gets older. I have made a vow to myself to try my hardest to keep my weight low as I don't want to develop the same problems. - 3/25/2009   7:45:34 PM
  • 34
    Oh joy. I've been diabetic for 40 years this May... Didn't ask for it and didn't bring it on due to being over weight or not exercising.... I was 3, diagnosed almost 1 month exactly before my 4th birthday.... I know this info is important, but it just depresses me. I know how important it is to manage my diabetes thru eating right and exercise, but at times the future seems hopeless. Just remember Spark, not everyone with diabetes caused it themselves.... That is the feeling I get reading articles here occasionally. **sigh** - 3/25/2009   4:45:48 PM
  • 33
    I read an article on the internet that said it may be a THIRD type of diabetes that causes the tangles in the brain, so I was aware of this. My BIL is in a nursing home now from having it, so I read a lot of articles on Alzheimer's. It is vital to stop eating junk food and get ourselves at a normal BMI. Smoking also alters the body's chemistry. - 3/25/2009   3:24:36 PM
  • 32
    Thanks for this info. I am T2 Diabetic with good control of Blood Sugars and A1c; and cholesterol also in normal range.However, I already have lots of "brain fog"--one doc. reported mild cognitive impairment a few years ago. This new article scares me--something new to talk to doctor about...
    I am beginning to feel like a hypochondriac--every time I read a new study that fits me, I feel the need to talk to doctor about it.

    Linda - 3/25/2009   3:05:22 PM
  • 31
    My mom is diabetic and has had dimentia /alzheimer's for quite some time it did not get bad for until about 2 years ago.. my dad could no longer take care of her.. this is so sad as they had been married for over 60 years.. My dad got my mom into a nice home where he also went.. He past away shorty after .. I think that once my mom was taken care of he just gave up..he was 85 years old.. My mom still will say that my dad is playing card or is in the restroom.. She knows who you are if you tell her.. I saw what this can do to you and i sure do not want it to happen to anyone.. - 3/25/2009   11:14:59 AM
  • 30
    Having been a type 1 diabetic for over 40 years I have heard and read many articles about how diseases are linked. The point here is that if you take care of yourself you can help avoid the possibiity of Alzheimer's as well as many other things Diabetics are prone to such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, amputations, etc. This should be an eye opener to anyone with diabetes or obesity in their family. The time is now to change your's and the people you care about's habits. - 3/25/2009   10:30:06 AM
  • 29
    I was not aware of this, but it is definitely good information to have. The connection does make sense too. I am sharing this article with friends and family in hopes that it will increase their awareness of both of these diseases. Good article! - 3/25/2009   10:29:54 AM
  • 28
    This article is definitely a wake-up call. Since losing over 200 pounds, I am no longer considered pre-diabetic. I would have been the first person in my family to be diabetic, had I not motivated myself to take care of my obesity problem. My great-grandfather (maternal side) had dementia. The article just fires me up even more to keep my weight under control, and continue to take better care of myself. I want to improve my chances of NOT getting dementia, so I'm going to do whatever I can to BE HEALTHY! - 3/25/2009   9:56:35 AM
  • 27
    I had just read this over the weekend or Monday. I agree that living healthier & exercising is the way to live!!! - 3/25/2009   9:50:59 AM
  • 26
    I had not heard of this before. My father has diabetes, heart disease and has been told he is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. Add in the genetics factor.....I have a lot of incentives to keep sparking!
    - 3/25/2009   9:47:46 AM
  • 25
    I had not heard this. My granddaughter has type 1 diabetes, diagnosed at age 7. I pray that the cure for this horrible disease is in the near future. Thanks so much for the info. - 3/25/2009   9:33:49 AM
  • 24
    Good to know so that I can be cautious and educate others that have diabetes !! - 3/25/2009   9:20:43 AM
  • 23
    There are signs on the fitness trail that says exercise is a good way to guard against Alzheimers. I have a history of dementia in my family and felt good about getting exercise. Now you tell me this?!?! Not a good feeling but I will keep exercising! - 3/25/2009   9:19:11 AM
  • 22
    As a Nurse, I do a LOT of teaching when I get a patient with Diabetes, especially NEW ONSET. But this is NOT one I was aware of, and it is really quite surprising to read this. I don't know if telling my patients this one will help, but so many are NON-compliant, maybe an Alzheimers scare would be a helpful catalyst in living a better lifestyle. THANKS for this article. Well done! - 3/25/2009   9:11:33 AM
  • 21
    OUCH!!!!!!!!! I thought being a diabetic was bad enough.......dang!! - 3/25/2009   8:30:04 AM
  • 20
    Scary, but good to know.
    Exercise and a healthy diet - it's the prescription for quite a number of ailments, huh? :) - 3/25/2009   7:54:29 AM
  • 19
    Here's another to add to the statistics.
    My mom has alzheimers and is also diabetic! It is not a nice disease.
    They also think that lifestyle is a component in both diseases and we can definitely control that -- good news!

    - 3/25/2009   7:14:53 AM
  • 18
    I have several family members with diabetes, and thank God none of them have had any other problems associated with the diabetes.....diabetes is bad enough :( - 3/25/2009   6:56:59 AM
  • 17
    Great! Add more BAD thing to being a Diabetic. :o(

    I'm trying though......
    I'm working on the weight by eating better and exercising, but there is nothing I can really do about the Alzheimer's. :o( - 3/25/2009   6:00:44 AM
    my dad has diabetes and has been living with me for he last 2 months. i have to remind him to take his insulin, he cant remember some family members, if he watches a repeat tv programme he is not even aware the list is endless.. he is 77 years old but i love him - 3/25/2009   5:17:09 AM
    Oh good, one more thing for me to look forward to. - 3/25/2009   3:46:55 AM
  • 14
    I hadn't heard this specific link, but I can't say I'm surprised. Diabetics are at increased risk for cardiovascular as well as kidney disease, both of which, especially in chronic stages contribute to dementia. As you touched on in your blog, however, it's still seems difficult to draw a distinction between Alzheimer's and vascular-related dementia. I've personally witnessed & cared for people with both, and they are quite different in terms of onset, progression, duration, and severity. My father developed Alzheimer's disease, the initial signs beginning around the time he was 80-82. One of the interesting things was at the time of his death at 91, the death certificate did not include the term "Alzheimer's" but rather "organic brain disease" as a contributing factor. I don't know if things have changed, now 10 years later, but at the time I was told that this was done because there was no absolute scientific proof to distinguish Alzheimer's from other forms of dementia. - 3/25/2009   1:28:50 AM
  • 13
    Yes, I have. Unfortunately there are more and more diabetic people these days due to obesity. As a result there will be more Alzheimer's in the future as well. - 3/25/2009   12:33:17 AM
  • 12
    I have type II diabetes, but fortunately my blood sugar has not been out the normal range for more than a year. I follow my vegan diet faithfully and get lots of exercise. My doctor is so pleased with my A1c (between 5.2 and 5.8 for the last year) that she told me that I could stop sticking my finger every day and cut back to twice a week. There is no unhealthy food in my house. - 3/24/2009   11:46:25 PM
  • 11
    I find myself forgetting things that I didn't realize before. I know I have type 2. Most of the time my sugars are in the right range. However I need to spark more. - 3/24/2009   10:43:34 PM
  • 10
    Had never heard about this link, however it does make sense. I've been living with diabetes II since 2001 & have noticed times when my sugars are abnormal that I can't remember things as easily. All the more reason to get healthy so that my sugars are in a healthy range. - 3/24/2009   9:57:51 PM
  • 9
    this is one of those WHATEVER moments the five I know that have came down with alzheimer did not even have pre-diabetes. Sometimes I wonder how they really come up with their results! - 3/24/2009   9:07:30 PM
    I was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2 about 2 years ago and high blood pressure many years ago, just recently was able to come off my BP pills and reduced my Actos to half a tab. and still testing normal most of the time. I know everyone is different, but this new research is just another reason to fight these diseases in any way you can. Best way of all is to live like a sparky or sparkette, don't you think? - 3/24/2009   8:46:28 PM
  • 7
    whoops.. in my last statement, i meant to say "if TREATING diabetes is a way to alleviate alzheimer suffering.." - 3/24/2009   8:34:11 PM
  • 6
    very interesting.. as a further descriptor of brain stressors - there's a possibility that diabetes sucks blood and other nutrients away from the brain causing the well-known plaques.. or the possibility that diabetes causes a shifting of inherent biochemical properties to then cause those plaques.. i'll be very curious to see how research shapes up..

    .. alzheimer's is already a tough nut to crack.. pharma has a tough time getting drugs through that treat some of its symptoms.. if diabetes is a way to help alleviate alzheimer suffering, then great.. - 3/24/2009   8:32:35 PM
  • 5
    I am a diabetic myself, no wonder I loose my train of thought and have a loss of words while in the middle of a conversation! - 3/24/2009   8:27:32 PM
  • 4
    just great! I thought that Diabetic's might catch a break one of these days. I have a family history of Diabetics. sad news for sure. - 3/24/2009   8:11:40 PM
  • 3
    Definitely a scary thought but makes sense. Both sides of my family had diabetics and my grandmother had alzheimer's. - 3/24/2009   8:01:23 PM
  • 2
    The connection makes sense, though its a very troublsome thought. A lot of my immediate family have diabetes and dimentia runs in the family too. Thanks for sharing the info. - 3/24/2009   6:56:58 PM
    Not good news. My dad is a Type II Diabetic with a history of dimentia in his family. This is scary news!

    Sandy - 3/24/2009   6:27:39 PM

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