This article was updated February 27, 2018.
Researchers have discovered a close link between diabetes and dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s, which may be caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain. The connection is so strong that some healthcare experts are referring to Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia. It attacks brain cells and can alter a person’s ability to think, remember, learn, reason, carry out daily activities, and make judgments. It’s a progressive, degenerative disease, meaning it gets worse over time.
Who gets Alzheimer’s?
As of 2018, more than 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and an additional 6 million people live with the disease undiagnosed. Alzheimer’s is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s grows every year as more and more baby boomers age into the risk pool of people 60 years and older. The disease can affect younger people, but seniors are the age group hit hardest: nearly one in eight people above 65 have it, as do almost half of people over the age of 85.
How does diabetes increase rates of diagnosis?
Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels in the blood remain high for long periods of time and damage blood vessels throughout the body. If there is too much sugar in the blood, it can inevitably affect the brain by damaging its blood vessels, restricting blood flow, and killing off essential brain cells.
High blood sugar can also damage other parts of the body, including the heart, eyes, and kidneys, and possibly lead to limb amputation.
Causes and risks
Both diabetes and Alzheimer’s could be caused by genetics or environmental factors. However, they could also be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle.
You may be at risk of developing these diseases if you:
- Have high blood pressure
- Are obese with excess weight around the waist
- Have high blood sugar
- Are older than 65
- Have abnormal cholesterol levels
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, it’s crucial to keep your blood sugar within a healthy range. The best way to do this is by leading a healthy lifestyle.
You can reduce your risks of developing diabetes and Alzheimer’s by:
- Losing at least 5 percent body weight
- Exercising at least 30 minutes 5 days per week
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Reducing stress levels
Alzheimer’s cannot be cured. However, it can be treated with cholinesterase inhibitors, which may reduce symptoms and behavioral issues associated with the disease, including depression, anxiety, and delusions.
Managing your diabetes will lead to less risk of developing dementia. Just as diabetes can affect other parts of the body, it can affect the brain. If your blood sugar is high, talk to your doctor to get on a path to wellness.