New study identifies diabetes as a top-three risk factor for dementia.

There are currently more than 37 million Americans living with diabetes, and this number has every sign of increasing dramatically over the next decade. In fact, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Chicago, we can expect over 44 million people to be diagnosed and living with diabetes in the United States by the year 2034. That’s only a decade from now.

As anyone with diabetes knows, it’s not just managing blood sugar that we have on our collective plates. The disease is associated with several severe comorbidities, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and high blood pressure.

Diabetes has also been linked to dementia, and new research is confirming that this connection is a very serious one. The data points to the fact that diabetes is one of the three most significant risk factors for experiencing dementia.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the loss of cognitive ability that results when the neurons in the brain lose connection to other brain cells and eventually die. Symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, confusion with time and place, challenges in problem-solving, new issues with speaking or writing, social withdrawal, poor judgment, and irritability.

A Study of Nearly 40,000 Adults

The results of the study conducted on adults aged 44 to 82 in the United Kingdom were published online in April 2024 by Nature Communications.

What did the study entail? Researchers examined brain scans to access the vulnerable parts of the brain that develop during adolescence and help us process and integrate information.

Gwenaëlle Douaud, associate professor at the University of Oxford and co-author of the study, described these regions of the brain as “the first to go when we start aging. What we’re trying to do is say: What are the common risk factors for dementia that are affecting these regions?”

The study looked at 161 potential risk factors for dementia, including diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, mood, inflammation, pollution, diet, physical activity, hearing impairment, and even socialization and education.

Diabetes Among Three Greatest Risk Factors

Of the many risk factors examined, three stood above the rest as the significant contributors to the risk of dementia. Listed in no particular order, they are the following:

1. A diagnosis of diabetes

2. Air pollution

3. Alcohol consumption

These were found to be the three most detrimental contributors to issues in the regions of the brain that lead to dementia. Diabetes, air pollution, and alcohol consumption were found to have an effect that is roughly twice as much as the following leading risk factors on the list, which included weight, smoking, blood pressure, and sleep.

It's likely no coincidence that health conditions related to diabetes are also linked to dementia, including obesity and high blood pressure.

Dementia Is on The Rise

Dementia continues to increase in the global population, with the World Health Organization predicting that more than 150 million people will suffer from the condition by 2050.

What Can You Do?

The sobering truth is that being diagnosed with diabetes elevates the risk of experiencing dementia. This added risk is something you cannot eliminate. Still, by properly managing blood sugar and adhering to a diabetes-healthy lifestyle, you can substantially lower your risk of experiencing a wide range of diabetes-related complications, including heart disease, neuropathy, and dementia.

Keep your blood sugar in the target range. Eat a diabetes-healthy diet rich in vegetables and lean proteins. Work in 150 minutes of physical activity as recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you are obese or overweight, talk with your diabetes physician and care team about ways you might be able to lose weight while effectively managing your diabetes.

The better you control your diabetes and keep your blood sugar in check, the better your chances of avoiding related health complications. It’s as simple as that.

At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage blood sugar with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.