Diabetes and dementia. Research suggests that diabetes patients are more likely to develop dementia than those without. Studies support the claim that an increased risk of dementia can happen in people with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. What is dementia? What are its associated symptoms?

Dementia is a cognitive disorder common in adults aged 65 and above. It refers to the inability to think, remember, and make decisions. It interferes with a person’s daily activities, takes control over their emotions and personality.

Statistics say that cases of dementia can skyrocket to 14 million by the year 2060. One common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder classified by a gradual decline in memory, behavior, cognitive, and social skills.

People with dementia can have problems with the following:

  • Reasoning
  • Memory
  • Attention span
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Visual perception

What is the link between diabetes and dementia?

A study in 2021 investigated the relationship between the age of ones diabetes onset and the subsequent development of dementia. The study recorded 1,710 cases of diabetes and 639 cases of dementia in 10,095 participants aged 35–55 years in 1985-1988.

In its result, the rate of dementia is 8.9 per 1,000 people without diabetes at 70 years old.

For people with diabetes, the rates are as follows:

  • 10.0 per 1,000 people set up to 5 years earlier
  • 13.0 for 6 to 19 years earlier
  • 18.3 for more than ten years earlier

There are different factors leading to the development of dementia in diabetes patients.

Effects of diabetes on the heart

Heart disease is a complication of diabetes. However, experts believe that heart disease relates to problems in cognitive health. How? High blood glucose levels raise the risk of heart disease. This condition does not only affect the heart but also the blood vessels. Once the blood vessels are damaged, it impairs proper blood flow to other body organs, including the brain. Without enough blood, the brain will not function efficiently, resulting in mental confusion and lightheadedness, the first indications of possible dementia.

In addition, damage in the blood vessels may prevent essential compounds and nutrients s, such as oxygen and other nutrients, from entering the brain. The brain cannot function at its total capacity without oxygen and nutrients. This also leads to dementia.

Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar

Frequent episodes of hypoglycemia are believed to contribute to the development of dementia. Although lowering blood sugar levels can prevent diabetes spikes and some complications, it also harms cognitive health.  Experts suggest that low blood sugar can damage the hippocampus, a part of brain structure that plays a significant role in learning and memory. 

Alzheimer’s disease development

According to research, type 3 diabetes, also known as “Alzheimer’s disease”, occurs due to insulin resistance and the dysfunction of insulin-like production in the brain.

How to reduce the risk of dementia in diabetes patients?

You can follow several ways to reduce the risk of dementia, especially if you have diabetes. The following also reflects the right approach to managing blood sugar levels:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Stay active and lose weight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Manage blood pressure.