Recent studies show an important connection between diabetes and dementia. A Japanese study published by The American Academy of Neurology [] showed that people with type 2 diabetes were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as those without. Dementia was also found in people who were not able to control blood sugar levels, but who had not yet been diagnosed with diabetes. Dementia, a loss of mental function and poor memory, occurred more often in elderly people when there were big swings in blood sugar levels after eating. Another study, presented by the American Academy of Neurology [American Academy of Neurology], found that memory loss in the elderly was caused by poorly managed diabetes, and that those who monitored blood glucose levels were at less risk. It appears that recommended diet and lifestyle changes can be helpful in preventing both diabetes and dementia.


Vascular Dementia and Diabetes


There are actually two different disorders that link diabetes and dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia; diabetes is believed to play a part due to poor glucose control or high levels of blood sugar that create a toxic condition and damage tissue. However, researchers at the Mayo Clinic [] found a stronger connection with vascular dementia and diabetes. In that case, there was damage to blood vessels in the brain, which decreased blood flow and destroyed cells. In both, it has been found that the brain is sensitive to sugars and insulin. Confusion and short-term memory loss; loss of bladder or bowel control; rapid, shuffling steps; mood swings; becoming lost in familiar places; and difficulty in following directions are symptoms of vascular dementia. Diabetes patients and their families should pay close attention to these warning signs.


Can Diabetes Cause Dementia?


It appears that the true link between diabetes and dementia is one’s blood sugar level. Researchers say that dementia is not directly caused by diabetes; dementia occurs due to an incorrect level of blood glucose in the body. The problem is not just a higher than normal level. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was found that low blood sugar could also damage the brain, especially when it comes to memory and attention. This is caused by eating too little, or in some cases, taking too much medication such as insulin. This suggests the need for proper blood sugar balance through diet, exercise and correct medication. Dementia and diabetes need not be forever linked. Both can be managed or even prevented with careful glucose monitoring and a healthy lifestyle.