Doctors have long known that type 2 diabetes increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. More recent studies have shown that high blood sugar—on a consistent basis—can also trigger dementia, but the effect of the age at which a person develops diabetes on the development of dementia has not yet been studied.
This link was confirmed in a recently published study. To do this, scientists in 1985-1988 formed a group that included 10,308 volunteers aged 35-55 years. Data on the effects of diabetes were obtained at ages 55, 60 and 70 years. From 1985 to 2019, 1,710 cases of diabetes and 639 cases of dementia were recorded among the volunteers.
For every 1,000 people surveyed each year, the rate of dementia was 8.9 among people without diabetes at age 70. Comparable rates (10.0) were found among people with diabetes but who became ill five years earlier. In those with diabetes 6 to 10 years earlier, the level of dementia was 13.0, over 10 years – 18.3. Therefore, the scientists concluded that early development of diabetes can increase the risk of developing dementia.
You may be interested in reading about medications linked to dementia and memory loss.
How diabetes can cause dementia
One of the reasons diabetes can lead to dementia is the effect of high blood sugar, as heart health is directly linked to brain health. In particular, heart disease and high blood pressure are associated with stroke, which in turn can lead to dementia.
Another factor is associated with hypoglycemia (a drop in blood glucose levels), commonly associated with diabetes. While blood sugar control reduces long-term risks of heart disease and stroke, it can also lead to hypoglycemia, memory loss, and dementia.
Scientists speculate that the reason for this is that low blood sugar levels can damage the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory consolidation.
How you can reduce the risk of dementia
Doctors pay attention to the fact that a person can independently reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and the subsequent development of dementia.
Experts recommend daily exercise, doing a complex of aerobic exercise (at least 30 minutes), as far as possible, following the Mediterranean diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, controlling blood pressure, monitoring cholesterol levels and, of course, quit if you do.