Senior Living Communities at Anthem Memory Care
Return To Blog
Link between Diabetes and Dementia

Is There a Link Between Diabetes and Cognitive Decline?


Almost everyone knows somebody with diabetes. Diabetes affects over 34 million Americans. The American Diabetes Association reports that 25% of individuals age 60 and older in the U.S. have either diagnosed or un-diagnosed diabetes. Add to that the fact that about half of Americans are in a pre-diabetic state and you can begin to understand the prevalence of the disease.

Diabetes, according to the Cleveland Clinic, Diabetes is a disease involving insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose in the body. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune attack on the pancreas resulting in a lack of insulin. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, occurs when the pancreas doesn’t use the insulin it produces efficiently, resulting in persistently high blood sugar levels.  

Exploring the link between diabetes and cognition.

Diabetes can also bring with it a higher risk of other serious conditions and diseases. It can cause kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, and other serious issues.

One area that is still being researched is the potential link between diabetes and cognition. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that while we still don’t understand the full dynamics of how diabetes impacts cognition, there is a clear link between high blood sugar and brain health.

Here are six key findings:

  1. The chemical balance of the channels of the brain can be disrupted by too much insulin.
  2. Inflammation of brain tissues, caused by high blood sugar, may damage brain cells, which can lead to the development of dementia.
  3. Studies have shown that individuals with type 1 diabetes are 93% more likely to develop dementia.
  4. There is also a correlation between high blood sugar and Alzheimer’s disease. This includes individuals with type 2 diabetes.
  5. Even individuals in the early stages of type 2 diabetes may begin to show some degree of brain dysfunction. A study found that individuals with diabetes had high levels of insulin resistance in the brain hindering the ability to use glucose.
  6. Other studies showed an acceleration of cognitive decline associated with type 2 diabetes, interfering with executive function and the speed of information processing.

What is type 3 diabetes?

While most individuals are familiar with type 1 and 2 diabetes, there is in fact a third type of diabetes. A multi-institution clinical study conducted by the Mayo Clinic revealed that the Alzheimer’s gene, APOE4, appears to interfere with brain cell’s ability to use insulin. This causes those cells to starve and ultimately to die.

This gene that starves brain cells of insulin has created what many researchers refer to as type 3 diabetes, directly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  

Healthy habits can make a difference.

The good news is that there are ways to reduce the likelihood of becoming diabetic and, even for those who are diabetic, can help optimize health. They are as follows:

  • Control blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
  • Become more active and exercise daily.
  • Maintain a healthy, low-fat diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you smoke, stop.

These are all commonsense tips and yet they can have a powerful impact on overall health. If you are caring for an individual with dementia, making sure they follow these health tips can keep them in the best shape possible for as long as possible.

Diabetes is a silent killer that can creep up on an individual. Once diagnosed, the condition will persist indefinitely. Doing everything possible to optimize your health and that of your loved ones can help avoid developing not only diabetes, but other serious diseases as well.

Healthy habits benefit everyone. And the time to start is now!