News: Looking at the link between diabetes and dementia

While links between diabetes, heart health, and brain health are being explored by current research, it is interesting to note that the same habits that keep your heart healthy also keep your brain healthy. We’ll keep you updated on the latest research as it rolls out- AGE Blog Team

Researchers look at preventing memory disorders by controlling blood sugar now.

By Shari Roan, Los Angeles TimesNovember 7, 2011

Two of the most worrisome trends in healthcare — the soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes and dementia — share several key biological processes. And scientists are beginning to think that is more than just a coincidence.

Many researchers now believe that proper control of blood sugar could pay dividends in the future by reducing the number of people stricken by Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia and even the normal cognitive decline that comes with age.

The concept that brain diseases share little in common with diseases arising elsewhere in the body is rapidly crumbling, says Debra Cherry, executive vice president of the Alzheimer’s Assn. California Southland. The key characteristics found in the development of heart disease and stroke — clogged arteries and inflammation in cells — also affect the brain.

On the flip side, she adds, “what is good for the reduction of diabetes risk is also good for reduction of the risk of cognitive impairment.”

About 6.8 million people in the U.S. have some type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, affecting 5.4 million people, a number that is projected to double by 2040, according to the Alzheimer’s Assn. The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, although studies show people with the disease have higher concentrations of clumps made up of a protein called beta amyloid in their brains. There are no treatments to slow or stop the disease process.

More than 8% of American adults and children have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, a number that is expected to grow in conjunction with the rise in rates of obesity, which is a risk factor for the Type 2 form of the disease. Diabetes is diagnosed when the body can’t produce enough insulin or use insulin properly to remove sugar from the bloodstream. When blood sugar remains too high, it can damage organs and lead to heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage and many other complications. There are medications to lower blood sugar, and in severe cases, people with diabetes must take insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood and requires insulin, while Type 2 typically involves weight gain in adulthood. But both diseases could affect cognitive health later in life.

Read the full article here at the LA Times’s Health Blog.

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