No doubt you’ve heard of type 2 diabetes (T2D). But what about type 3 diabetes?
Type 3 diabetes is the name some scientists are giving to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. According to the Mayo Clinic, type 3 diabetes occurs when neurons in the brain become unable to respond to insulin, which they need for basic tasks such as memory and learning.
In fact, some researchers believe insulin deficiency is central to the cognitive decline that occurs in Alzheimer’s patients.
Given this, it’s no surprise that investigators have found a link between uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and dementia. One study showed people with untreated diabetes develop signs of Alzheimer’s nearly twice as fast as those who treat their diabetes.
And the earlier you develop T2D, the higher your odds for dementia…
Age and the T2D-dementia link
Prediabetes is an intermediate stage where blood sugar is elevated but has not yet crossed the threshold into full-blown T2D — the risk of which is substantial.
In the U.S., up to 96 million adults have prediabetes. And 70 percent of those will progress to full-blown T2D.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health decided to investigate the association between prediabetes and dementia using data from participants aged 45 to 64 in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study.
They specifically looked at measures of blood sugar control, particularly HbA1C and cognitive function. In addition, they examined whether age at diabetes diagnosis modified dementia risk — and the results were sobering…
When looking at age at diabetes diagnosis, they found:
- The risk for dementia is three times higher for those developing T2D before the age of 60.
- For those developing T2D between the ages of 60 and 69, dementia risk increased by 73 percent.
- For those developing T2D between the ages of 70 and 79, the increased dementia risk fell to 23 percent.
- There was no increased dementia risk for those developing T2D at ages 80 or older.
The researchers conclude that while prediabetes is associated with dementia risk, this risk is explained by the development of diabetes.
“Diabetes onset at early age is most strongly related to dementia,” they write in the study. “Thus, preventing or delaying the progression of prediabetes to diabetes will substantially reduce the future burden of dementia.”
Prediabetes is tough to catch
One of the challenges with diagnosing prediabetes is it often has no symptoms. Your blood sugar could be slowly ticking higher without you even knowing it.
You’ll want to keep an eye out for prediabetes if you have any of the following risk factors:
- Weight – a body mass index (BMI) higher than 25
- Lack of physical activity
- Family history of prediabetes or diabetes
- Age – at age 45, your risk begins to rise and rises even more rapidly around 65
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
If you find yourself in prediabetes limbo, you’ll want to pay close attention to your diet and get plenty of exercise.
But you can also get extra help from vitamin D. The common vitamin was recently been found to slash the risk of progression to T2D by 15 percent. It may be the reason that in a previous study, consuming full-fat dairy was shown to decrease risk of T2D progression by as much as 70 percent.
An extra plus about vitamin D? A study from the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute found that a group of people who took vitamin D supplements had 40 percent fewer dementia diagnoses than those who did not take the supplements.
Study shows dementia risk increases the younger a person develops diabetes — EurekAlert!
Prediabetes, intervening diabetes and subsequent risk of dementia: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study — Diabetologia
What is the link between Alzheimer’s and Type 3 diabetes? — Mayo Clinic
Prediabetes — Mayo Clinic
Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) Test for Diabetes — WebMD
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