Diabetes and Alzheimer’s linked

A Humana Medicare member tests his blood glucose level as his daughter looks on

As you get older, the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s increases, but new studies also suggest people with diabetes may be at a higher risk for getting Alzheimer’s disease and that diabetes may also lead to other types of dementia.1

The connection between Alzheimer’s and diabetes is more noticeable in those who have type 2 diabetes. The research provides another reason for taking steps to prevent or control diabetes. By taking action now, you may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and other complications.

How diabetes causes changes in your brain

Diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels, which makes it a risk factor for vascular dementia. This type of dementia comes from brain damage caused by reduced or blocked blood flow to the brain.

Many people with diabetes have brain changes that are part of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Some researchers think that each condition increases the damage caused by the other.

One study of the connections between diabetes and Alzheimer’s examined a medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes. The study found out that the medication also improved brain function in people with mild Alzheimer’s disease.

Lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses

Working with healthcare providers to prevent or closely manage diabetes may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It can also help you avoid other health problems associated with diabetes like heart disease, stroke, eye damage, kidney disease, damage to nerves that may cause pain in your feet or hands, digestive problems, gum disease and carpal tunnel syndrome. 2

Steps for managing diabetes and its complications.3

To prevent or manage diabetes and avoid complications:

  • Follow your healthcare team's suggestions about the best plan for monitoring blood glucose, cholesterol level, and blood pressure.
  • Eat healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat milk and cheese.
  • If you’re overweight, eat a healthy diet and exercise to lose weight. Obesity can lead to diabetes and other health problems.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Examine your feet daily for cuts or sores.
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily.
  • Take any prescribed medications on schedule.