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General Health : Mental Health Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

High Blood Sugar Level Increases Risk Of Alzheimer's Disease
By Kathy Jones
Jul 17, 2006 - 2:15:00 PM

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17 July, ( - People with high blood sugar levels may be at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, researchers report. Alzheimer's disease is linked with type 2 diabetes, but researchers say the link may develop much before patients are identified as diabetic.

The condition with high blood sugar levels that is not yet in the established diabetes range is called pre-diabetes. Researchers from Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said that people with higher than normal blood sugar levels could be at an increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease at a later stage.

The researchers presented the findings of their nine-year study on the opening day of the 10th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in Madrid.

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Stockholm Gerontology Research Center, included 1173 people aged 75 and older. They found that the risk of developing dementia was highest in people with pre-diabetes who had high blood pressure as well.

However the risk occurred only in those who did not carry a gene called apo E4, which raises the Alzheimer’s risk. At the beginning of the study none of the participants had dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Around 47 of them were diagnosed as having pre-diabetes.

The researchers followed the participants of the study for nine years and kept track of how many patients developed Alzheimer's. People who had pre-diabetes at the start of the study were found to have 70 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

"I was a little surprised," said lead researcher Weili Xu. Xu added that since increased exercise and changes in diet can improve borderline diabetes, it could also help in dementia.

Another study found that the higher the blood sugar levels, the greater the risk of dementia. The study was led by Rachel A. Whitmer of Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Oakland. The conclusions were based on the records of 22,852 patients with Type 2 diabetes. None of them showed signs of dementia at the beginning of the study.

Researchers followed up the patients for eight years. The researchers focused on glycosylated hemoglobin, which is a blood test that reflects blood sugar levels for the previous two months. The normal value is 7 or less. In the current study the researchers found the risk of dementia increased when this level reached 10.

Patients with readings from 10 to 11.9 had 13 percent more risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's Disease than people with levels under 10. Between 12 to 14.9, the risk of developing dementia was 24 percent higher and above 15, the risk rose to 83 percent higher.

“Tight control is important for the whole life span,” Dr. Whitmer said. “The older you are, the more likely you are to get dementia. With the whole diabetes epidemic we’re seeing much more Type 2, so are we going to see even more Alzheimer’s than we thought we would see? If we continue in this direction, it’s a little bit frightening.”

Experts say that though these studies link diabetes and Alzheimer's the relation is not firmly established. The diseases are slightly similar to each other in that Alzheimer's disease comes about as a result of amyloid plaques in the brain. In diabetes, plaques are formed in pancreases and could kill off insulin-producing cells.

Alzheimer's Disease and Diabetes
* The National Institutes Of Health defines dementia as a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities.

*Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia among older people. It is estimated that up to 4 million Americans suffer from dementia. It usually starts after 60 years of age and the risk increases as people age.

* People afflicted with Alzheimer's disease may have trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. The disease develops gradually and a person might live for 8 to 10 years after initial diagnosis, but can stretch up to 20 years.

* There is no treatment for the disease although some drugs can delay the symptoms from getting worse.

* Diabetes has become the number 1 lifestyle disease affecting an estimated 184 million adults worldwide.

* It is estimated that at least 20 million in the United States are suffering from the disease.

* Around 90 to 95 percent of those affected have type 2 diabetes, a condition characterized by failure of the pancreatic beta cells to adequately respond to the increased demands for insulin that occur as a result of obesity-related insulin resistance.

* Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death by disease in the US and costs approximately $132 billion per year in direct and indirect medical expenses.

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