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Diabetes Linked to Development of Alzheimer’s Disease

People with diabetes are at increased risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Arvanitakis presented these findings here April 3rd at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. “We found that diabetes is associated both with a higher likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease and a greater rate of decline in perceptual speed,” said Dr. Arvanitakis, assistant professor, Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois. This risk is independent of a history of clinical stroke and whether or not an individual is a carrier of apolipoprotein E (APOE).

She noted that few prospective studies have assessed diabetes as a risk factor for either Alzheimer s disease or decline in cognitive function. The existing studies have had variable results, she said.

Her study enrolled 869 older Catholic nuns, priests, and brothers who were participants in the Religious Order Study. None of the subjects had dementia at baseline. The subjects had detailed annual evaluations for up to 8 years that included a clinical classification of dementia and Alzheimer s disease, as well as cognitive function testing. From these data, the investigators derived previously established summary measures.

Among these subjects, 125 (14.4%) had diabetes. They were followed for an average of 5.1 years. During this time, 141 subjects (16.2%) developed Alzheimer s disease.

The investigators used a proportional hazards model adjusted for age, sex, and education, which showed that people with diabetes had a 73% greater chance of developing Alzheimer s disease compared to controls (hazard ratio = 1.73, 95% CI: 1.15,2.61).

In a subsequent analysis the investigators controlled for age, sex, and education, as well as baseline level of cognition. In this analysis people with diabetes had a 51% greater rate of decline in perceptual speed (P=0.01). However, this decline rate was not linked to a rate of decline in either episodic memory or other cognitive systems.

Study title: Diabetes and Risk of Alzheimer s Disease and Change in Cognitive Function. Abstract: S58.003

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