World Alzheimer Report: Diabetes Doubles Risk for Dementia

Control of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as measures to encourage smoking cessation and to reduce cardiovascular risk, have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia even in late-life, finds a new report from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).

The report focuses on sets of potential modifiable risk factors in four key domains: developmental, psychological and psychosocial, lifestyle and cardiovascular conditions.

“A good mantra is ‘What is good for your heart is good for your brain,’” ADI says in its findings.

Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease and one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Globally, the number of people living with dementia today is estimated at 44 million, set to almost double by 2030.

“Given this epidemic scale, and with no known cure, it’s crucial that we look at what we can do to reduce the risk or delay the onset of developing the disease,” ADI says. “We believe that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia must become a national and international public health priority.”

Diabetes can increase the risk of dementia by 50%, the report found. Obesity and lack of physical activity are also important risk factors for diabetes and hypertension.

“While cardiovascular health is improving in many high income countries, many low and middle income countries show a recent pattern of increasing exposure to cardiovascular risk factors, with rising rates of diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” ADI says, noting the roles both education and wealth play in one’s health.

Smoking cessation is strongly linked in the report with a reduction in dementia risk. For example, studies of dementia incidence among people aged 65 years and over show that ex-smokers have a similar risk to those who have never smoked, while those who continue to smoke are at much higher risk.

In addition, lifelong cognitive activity may be necessary to help prevent cognitive decline, and those with higher education may be more highly motivated to pursue intellectual stimulation throughout the life course, ADI says, noting the “use it or lose it” hypothesis.

“Dementia and Risk Reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors” was researched and authored by Martin Prince, Emiliano Albanese, Dr. Maëlenn Guerchet and Dr. Matthew Prina on behalf of the Global Observatory for Ageing and Dementia Care, which is hosted at the Health Service and Population Research Department, King’s College London.

Access the full report here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell