Diabetes Diagnosis in Midlife More Than Doubles Dementia Risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Diabetes and Dementia

New research shows that diabetes more than doubles the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The risk is especially high for anyone diagnosed with diabetes in midlife, after age 65. The results come from the "Study of Dementia in Swedish Twins, "which tracked 13,693 Swedish twins aged 65 or older beginning in 1998.

According to USC College professor, and director of the study, Margaret Gatz, "Twins provide naturally matched pairs in which confounding factors such as genetics and childhood environment may be removed when comparisons are made between twins."

Gatz, who is professor of psychology, gerontology and preventive medicine at USC, is also foreign adjunct professor of medical epidemiology and biostatistics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Dr. Gatz says the twins study "highlighted the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle during adulthood in order to reduce the risk of dementia late in life."


The results, published in the January issue of Diabetes, showed that middle age onset diabetes increased the risk of dementia, or Alzheimer's disease by 125 percent. Diabetes onset after age 65 was not found to carry the same risk of dementia.

According to the authors, the risk of dementia for those diagnosed with diabetes before age 65 may be even greater. Diabetes appears long before the onset of dementia. People with diabetes often die younger, reducing the size of the study. The authors also note that thirty percent of diabetics have not been diagnosed.

Previously identified risk factors for dementia associated with diabetes include poverty and genetic factors. Diabetes affects 21 million Americans, according to The American Diabetes Association.

The study emphasizes the importance of exercise and dietary habits to keep diabetes in check to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's or dementia. A diagnosis of diabetes after age 65 is now shown to more than double the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Source: Diabetes Increases Risk for Dementia