It has always been known that people who suffer from diabetes are at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But that's not all. It has been recently found out that diabetes can also dramatically increase a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease along with other forms of dementia. This is according to a new study conducted in Japan that involved 1,000 men and women over the age of 60.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a progressive brain disease that involves degeneration and death of brain cells that lead to decline and impairment of memory and mental function. Many experts believe that it stems from the increase in the production of a certain protein called beta-amyloid that triggers nerve cell death.
Diabetes Mellitus (DM), often simply referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases that involves high levels of blood sugar or glucose that is rooted from defective secretion or action of insulin.
So How Are These Two Conditions Linked?
The new study conducted in Japan found that people with diabetes are twice more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease within the next 15 years than those without diabetes. The same people were also found to be 1.75 times at greater risk of any other kind of dementia.
Rachel Whitmer, PhD, an epidemiologist in the research division of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, a nonprofit health-care organization based in Oakland, California, said that it's crucial for the public to recognize that diabetes is a "significant risk factor for all types of dementia". Although Whitmer was not involved in the mentioned research, she researches risk factors for dementia. According to her, the new study provides good insight and evidence that the diabetes patients are indeed at greater risk. She recommends however that new other studies should be done to find out why.
Some experts say that diabetes can contribute to dementia in several ways.
• One is through insulin resistance:
- This brings about high levels of blood sugar that lead to type 2 diabetes.
- This can also interfere with the ability of the body to break down a protein linked to Alzheimer's. This protein is called amyloid that forms plaques in the brain that can bring about AD.
- Apart from that, high blood sugar also promotes the production of molecules that contain oxygen. These can cause damage to the cells in a process called oxidative stress.
• Another is through Atherosclerosis:
- High blood sugar along with high levels of cholesterol also contributes to the hardening and narrowing of brain arteries. This is a condition called Atherosclerosis, which can result in Vascular Dementia.
- Vascular Dementia takes place when blockages in the artery kill the brain tissue; having high blood sugar puts intense pressure to the nervous system and the blood vessels.
The link between diabetes and dementia remained high even after researchers considered other factors like age, sex, body mass index, and blood pressure. Because of these findings, it becomes even more imperative to raise awareness about diabetes. If you have family history of diabetes, it's important to learn more about this condition and prevent it as early as possible.