In a new study from Imperial College London, researchers found why people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop dementia.
They analyzed ‘cardio-metabolic factors’ – such as blood pressure, blood sugars and cholesterol levels—in people with type 2 diabetes across two decades.
They identified changes in these factors during this period that were linked to developing dementia in later life.
The findings could help identify risk factors for dementia in people with type 2 diabetes and inform interventions to help prevent or delay the condition.
Dementia, a group of conditions that affect the brain, causing memory loss and other changes to brain function, is more common in people with type 2 diabetes.
High blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes can damage blood vessels and lead to serious cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.
In the study, the team looked to see if the factors affecting heart health in people with type 2 diabetes could also impact their dementia risk.
They analyzed data from 227,580 people with type 2 diabetes over the age of 42 years, around 10% of whom went on to develop dementia.
The team found over the 20-year period, changes in blood pressure differed between those who did and didn’t develop dementia.
People who developed dementia had higher blood pressure between 11-19 years before their dementia diagnosis, which then declined more steeply closer to their diagnosis, compared to those who didn’t develop dementia.
A decline in bodyweight starting at 11 years before a dementia diagnosis was found in people who developed the condition and this was steeper than in those who didn’t develop it.
Blood sugar and cholesterol levels were also found to be generally higher across the entire 20-year period among people with type 2 diabetes who developed dementia, compared to those who didn’t.
The team also found eating healthily, keeping active, reducing alcohol intake and stopping smoking are all advised to help everyone reduce their risk of dementia.
These findings suggest that by monitoring cardiometabolic factors and managing blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and bodyweight, people with type 2 diabetes could be supported to lower their risk of dementia.
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The study was presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2021. One author of the study is Dr. Eszter Vamos.
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