Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is a type, and the most common form, of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s affects one in 10 Americans over 65 years of age and nearly 50 percent of those over 85 years old.

Although the two primary risk factors for Alzheimer’s is age and family history of the disease, there is new evidence that shows diabetes may also be a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s. Recent studies have shown that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have a 30 to 65 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-diabetics.

There is also growing evidence that Alzheimer’s is primarily a metabolic disease and has led some researchers to propose reclassifying it as Type 3 diabetes. 

A study conducted by University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and Northwestern University noted that characteristics of type 2 diabetes, including abnormal glucose levels, metabolic “dysregulation”, and insulin resistance or deficiency, are seen in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease without the presence of diabetes.

The numbers of people with Alzheimer’s and diabetes are expected to rise over the next several decades. These increases may be correlated with increasing obesity rates. The correlation is so disquieting that scientists are now investigating a causal relationship between all three epidemics, with disturbing results.

Type 2 diabetes has already been strongly linked with obesity and diet as well as with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The link between Alzheimer’s and obesity has been studied less, but a growing body of research is filling that gap. New studies have linked obesity to Alzheimer’s. Fitness and healthy diets have also been linked to a decreased occurrence of dementia.

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