Is there a link between diabetes and dementia? How to reduce the risks.

Type 2 diabetes and other insulin resistance-related health issues continue to rise. Alzheimer’s diagnoses are also on the rise. Is there a link between diabetes, insulin resistance and dementia? Alzheimer’s is the predominant form of dementia, accounting for 60%-80% of cases and like diabetes, its effects on quality of life are confronting. But research is showing how these diseases may be minimised. 


Alzheimer’s disease is sharply on the rise

The sharp rise in Alzheimer’s diagnosis is alarming. It’s on a similar trajectory as the obesity crisis in the late 1970s and the type 2 diabetes crisis of the late 1980s. It’s estimated that brain diseases are affecting 50 million people worldwide (and their families) and rising, with a staggering 10 million new cases each year. 


What does type 2 diabetes have to do with Alzheimer’s?

If you’re living with diabetes, you know that insulin is the hormone at issue. However, studies are showing that there are also strong links between high insulin, insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease. 

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), aside from advanced age, having diabetes or prediabetes is the second biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, this research is showing that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 65% more for people with type 2 diabetes. 

Alzheimer’s is a high risk when added to diabetes and disorders of altered glucose metabolism.


What is Type 3 diabetes? 

We’ve heard of Type 1 and Type 2 but there is now a proposed Type 3 diabetes. This Type 3 diabetes is the terminology being used to refer to this specific type of insulin resistance that affects the brain and can cause Alzheimer’s.

A simple way to put this problem – glucose (sugar from our carb intake, and also that made by the liver diabetes) builds up in the brain and the brain cannot metabolise it resulting in damaged blood vessels. Insulin resistance in this instance is localised to the brain only. 


Metabolic syndrome – beware!

Metabolic syndrome diseases (which includes type 2 diabetes) have insulin resistance as the main underlying cause. Therefore anyone with these raised bio-markers are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (i.e diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol). Complicating your health, these metabolic diseases usually develop progressively with no acute or obvious symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes takes 10-13 years on average to develop and it is similar with Alzheimer’s.

Brain function and structure gradually decline over time, often taking many years to reveal a diagnosis, so it’s important to take action early with any of the above health conditions. 


How Metabolic syndrome diseases exacerbate Alzheimer’s

Metabolic syndrome affects health in many ways and has these effects on the brain:

  • With the heightened risk of heart disease and stroke, it leads to damaged blood vessels and blood flow to the brain
  • Excess insulin alters the balance of brain neuro-chemicals
  • High blood sugar causes inflammation that can damage brain cells


The early signs of cognitive decline to look for

The decline of poor glucose processing and insulin functioning coincides with other cognitive declines such as:

  • Memory loss – misplacing and unable to recall things
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Problem solving and planning challenges
  • Confusion – times and places
  • Loss of judgement
  • Visual and spatial challenges – reading and balance
  • Mood, behaviour and personality changes


What prevention strategies you can take against dementia and diabetes

If you’re aged in your 40’s or 50’s the best prevention is to start taking action now to minimise the risks of brain health diseases and improve your health, particularly if you have diabetes or metabolic health issues. 

Our modern diet with its high sugar and processed foods presents one of the biggest risks, however, nutrition is also a factor we can readily use for prevention.  With a coach or programme that specifically has the support for diabetes and metabolic health, you’ll be able to lower your risks effectively.


The good news on reducing your risks of diabetes and dementia

The good news is that the risks of dementia can be minimised by addressing a key underlying cause – insulin resistance – which mainly comes from constantly high blood glucose levels.

Some of the actions you can take include:

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels annually and get a baseline to track
  • Include all of the oil based vitamins especially vitamin E
  • Include omega 3 in your diet via fish oils and oily omega 3 foods
  • Include all coconut products, avocado’s, nuts and seeds
  • Eat whole real food (non-inflammatory foods) especially plants
  • Exercise regularly
  • Hydrate cells with water
  • Get into a healthy weight range
  • Do not smoke
  • Get good sleep – quantity and quality
  • Maintain life balance including stress levels and sleep

Sounds easy right? Some of these may sound scary, some you may be trying to do already. When you know the risks you’re actively minimising, it’s worth the focus and effort and there is help for you from our experts.


Know your risks of diabetes and dementia through tracking

These are some baseline tests we recommend to track your risks over the years, in consultation with your medical practitioner:

  • Monitor HbA1c levels annually (blood test)
  • Self test your own blood glucose levels with a home kit
  • Consider neurological tests, especially if Alzheimer’s disease is in the family, such as MRI’s (magnetic brain imaging)


Get help early to reduce your dementia risk

Before you jump on the next diet to reduce your sugar or lose weight fast, consider a longer term solution that you can manage sustainably. The good news is that you can do this from home with an online programme that stays with you for success. The Diabetes Clinic Online programme improves your insulin resistance and lowers your risks for complications. It’s a doctor-led programme with the support and guidance for making the changes that are proven to work to reverse diabetes naturally. Find out more here and consider what you can start doing today.

Interested in the research? One of the current brain disease experts is Dr David Perlmutter, neurologist and author of several books. You might like to check out one of his books ‘The grain brain whole life plan’. 


Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more diabetes specific information The Diabetes Clinic Online Channel



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