Alzheimer's Now Linked to Diabetes

Alzheimers patients more likely to have history of diabetes

January 26, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) From your head to your toes, diabetes can affect many aspects of your health. This common condition may even harm your ability to think and process information.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have been linked to cognitive problems like Alzheimer's disease and dementia. However, there is a lack of studies exploring these links in older adults.

In a recent study, researchers set out to see if older patients with Alzheimer's were more likely to have a history of diabetes than those without Alzheimer's.

Results showed that Alzheimer's patients were more likely to have clinically diagnosed and medically treated diabetes compared to the general aged population. However, the researchers noted that the difference was small.

"Get cognitive testing if you have diabetes."

The study was conducted by Anna-Maija Tolppanen, PhD, of the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Kuopio in Finland, and colleagues.

"Type 2 diabetes in midlife or late life increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and type 1 diabetes has been associated with a higher risk of detrimental cognitive outcomes, although studies from older adults are lacking," the authors wrote in background information of their study.

"We investigated whether individuals with Alzheimer's disease were more likely to have a history of diabetes than matched controls from the general aged population," they wrote.

For the study, researchers collected information on Finnish individuals who had received medications for Alzheimer's disease. The researchers were looking for those patients who also received medication for either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes rates were compared between older patients with Alzheimer's and people without Alzheimer's (the control group).

Results showed a diabetes rate of 11.4 percent in the whole study population. The rate of diabetes was 12 percent (3,372 subjects) among patients with Alzheimer's disease, compared to 10.7 percent (3,012 subjects) among the control group.

People with Alzheimer's disease were more likely to have diabetes than the control group, with an odds ratio of 1.14.

An odds ratio explains the odds of an event happening in one group versus the odds of that event in another group. In this case, for example, Alzheimer's patients had 1.14 times the odds of past treatment for diabetes compared to the control group.

Even after accounting for cardiovascular disease (a risk factor for Alzheimer's and a common complication of diabetes), the researchers found that Alzheimer's patients had 1.31 times the odds of having diabetes.

The link between Alzheimer's and past diabetes treatment was stronger among patients diagnosed with diabetes at midlife than those diagnosed in late life.

"Individuals with clinically verified Alzheimer's disease are more likely to have a history of clinically verified and medically treated diabetes than the general aged population, although the difference is small," the authors concluded.

The study was published January 22 in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association. No funding or disclosure information was available. 

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Review Date: 
January 23, 2013
Last Updated:
January 27, 2013