EASD 2016: Diabetes and dementia: more than a chance finding

Links between diabetes and dementia has been discussed by Professor Geert Jan Biessels, University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands. Both type 2 diabetes and dementia are conditions of older age. With the ageing of the population both conditions become increasingly common and they often co-occur.

“This co-occurrence of diabetes and dementia is more than a chance finding,” explained Professor Biessels. “Meta-analyses indicate that the risk of dementia is increased by about 60- 70% in people with diabetes compared to those without diabetes. Diabetes also increases the risk of pre-dementia stages of cognitive impairment – so called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – and diabetes increases the risk of conversion of MCI to dementia. MCI and dementia should thus be considered as long-term complications in diabetes that clearly affect patient management.”

Given the substantial prevalence of diabetes among older individuals this means that up to one in ten to one in fifteen of all cases of dementia is attributable to diabetes. Hence, type 2 diabetes and possibly also pre-diabetic stages of glucose dysmetabolism and insulin resistance are important targets for dementia prevention.

Professor Biessels concluded: “In my presentation I have reviewed the epidemiological evidence for the increased dementia risk in diabetes. I have also addressed causes of dementia in patients and have discussed some of the controversies regarding possible links between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. I have addressed trajectories from normal cognition to dementia and individualised prediction of dementia risk, highlighting possible windows of opportunity for treatment.”

Source EASD 2016

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