2 Big Ds: Diabetes and Dementia

Diabetes is another “Big D” in the medical world, inflicting much pain and suffering. There has been some research coming out on the influence of diabetes on the risk of getting dementia. Most of the past research has focused on how Type 2 Diabetes increases the risk of dementia in older age. These studies have shown that Type 2 Diabetes increases the risk of developing dementia by only about 15-60% (depending on the study) when compared to people without diabetes. Often, the most common type of dementia people with diabetes suffer from is vascular dementia because of the damage done to blood vessels from diabetes. You’ve heard of people with diabetes having to get their foot amputated – this is because of poor blood flow. As an extension of this poor blood flow, people with diabetes can experience poor blood supply to other parts of their bodies such as their brain. When this happens, it can escalate to Vascular Dementia.

But what about the population with Type 1 Diabetes? Great question! A study was just released on February 1st in the Journal of Neuroepidemiology which focused on the effect of Type 1 Diabetes (aka insulin-dependent, or young onset) on the risk of developing dementia.

The figures are devastating. It was found that Type 1 Diabetes increases the risk of developing dementia by 1.2-3x (or by 120-300%) when compared to people without dementia. THREE TIMES!!! That is a lot!

So why do we see this stark difference in the risk of developing dementia between people with Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes?

One hypothesis could be that the onset of Type 1 diabetes is often much earlier than Type 2 diabetes. As a result, the detrimental effects of Type 1 diabetes have a much longer time to exert their influence on the body than in Type 2. Therefore, you may see a lot more cumulative damage in someone with Type 1 Diabetes.

What other reasons do you think Type 1 diabetes is such a greater risk factor for dementia than Type 2?


What to take from this? If you have Type 1 diabetes, be sure to be diligent in your self care. Make sure you’re eating well, exercising often, and taking your insulin as prescribed. Same goes for if you have Type 2 diabetes. Take care of yourself to prevent the onset of dementia. And remember, diabetes is just a RISK FACTOR for dementia. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you are going to get dementia.



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