Dementia covers a group of progressive degenerative brain disorders which affect memory, language, thinking, orientation, behavior and emotion, to a degree that can change one’s personality. The most well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Currently there is no cure for most types of dementia, but science is making daily efforts to understand these states in order to help the people who suffer from it. A recent longitude study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports on a link between high blood sugar and the risk for dementia, but underlines that the nature and extent of that link is still to be researched.
For people with diabetes, heart disease is a common and serious health condition. Does this new study mean additional treatment for their health as well? Let’s not jump to conclusions until there is more proof to this, but let’s acknowledge the information.
First of all, this was an observation study so no causality could be concluded from it. But the study demonstrates a link between elevated blood sugar levels and a higher risk for dementia, even among people who don’t have diabetes.
Researchers sampled more than 2,000 adults, aged 65 and older without any signs of dementia at the beginning of the study. Also, a majority of participants did not have diabetes at this time (just 232 of them). Researchers followed participants for the next seven years and the results showed that one in four of them developed dementia during that period (primarily Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia), 450 without and 74 with diabetes. But the level of risk was higher among the group of people with diabetes.
Among the people who did not have diabetes, results showed that the risk of dementia was 18 percent higher for those with an average blood sugar 115 milligrams per deciliter, compared with people with 100 mg/dL on average. And within the group with diabetes, a 40 percent higher risk of dementia was demonstrated if a person had average glucose levels of 190 mg/dL, compared with one whose levels averaged 160 mg/dL. Observed link between high blood sugar and risk for dementia remained after controlling the possible effects of smoking, inactivity and heart disease.
Study author Dr. Paul Crane, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle underlines: “People who had lower blood sugar had a lower risk than people who had higher blood sugar. That’s not the same thing as saying that lowering your own blood sugar through any means has any influence on your personal risk of dementia.”
On the other hand, just a glance at the statistics reflects how this is an important field to study. For example, 347 million people worldwide have diabetes and it is projected to be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030, by the World Health Organization. The number of people with dementia is estimated to be over 35 million, and it will progress exponentially, doubling every 20 years, reaching the number of more than 115 million people in 2050, states Alzheimer’s Disease International organization. Dementia disorders are mostly diagnosed in developing countries, due to the demographic ageing process and better health care services.
Until further research reveals more information, the general advice is to adapt a healthy life style, regardless of the “risk-group” to which one belongs. In light of the numbers above, we hope that both individual effort coupled with scientific findings, will make notable progress in keeping high blood sugar levels and dementia processes under control.
By: Milica Zujko