Diabetes Leads to Early Death for Alzheimer’s Patients

There is significant variance in expected lifespans for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but two fairly clear trends have recently been found. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that have either diabetes or high blood pressure live less than half as long as those without, making proper maintenance of these conditions potentially very important for Alzheimer’s treatments.

A long-term study was conducted on 323 elderly individuals with no history of dementia (a term describing memory loss conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease). Over the following years, with medical examinations performed every 18 months, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia developed in certain patients, many of whom had other medical conditions, such as diabetes.

While the study investigated numerous factors that might contribute to mortality in Alzheimer’s patients, such as race and other medical conditions, high blood pressure and diabetes stood out in conjunction with faster mortality rates in Alzheimer’s patients. Diabetic Alzheimer’s patients were seen to be “twice as likely to die sooner” than those Alzheimer’s patients without diabetes. This number rose to 2.5 times as likely for patients with both high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study is not conclusive, but gives a strong basis for taking especially close care of both diabetes and high blood pressure in Alzheimer’s patients. As study author Yaakov Stern clearly puts it, “studies show that the average lifespan of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be anywhere from three to nine years. For that person and their caregiver, every minute counts. Here we have two controllable factors that may drastically affect how long that person can survive.”

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Stern, Yaakov. Seroka, Rachel. Neurology news release. November 2008.