Researchers found that older people with memory loss are three times more likely to develop dementia if they also have diabetes.
Scientists have previously recognized that diabetes is associated with development of mild cognitive impairment, memory loss. This most recent study shows that having diabetes also increases the risk of conversion from such impairment to dementia.
The study followed 61 people aged over 65 for a period of four years. All the participants had mild cognitive impairment, and 10 (16%) also had a diagnosis of diabetes.
At the end of the four year period, 19 (31%) of the participants had progressed to dementia. Two (3%) of the participants reverted to normal cognitive levels, and 40 (59%) remained stable. Of those who progressed to dementia, 7 had diabetes.
Analysis showed that only diabetes was associated with progression to dementia, after adjusting for other factors such as gender, age and other health conditions.
The study’s authors, Dr. Latha Velayudhan and Prof. Simon Lovestone, said, “Our study demonstrates that people with mild cognitive impairment and diabetes are at increased risk of developing dementia.”
“With an expected increase in prevalence of diabetes of people of all ages, including older adults, the risk of developing dementia may increase. Identification of those at particular risk of progression to dementia might help to target early treatment. There is also a need for studies of improved diabetes control and related approaches as possible strategies for early intervention.”
The study was funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, UK Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research specialist Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, UK.
British Journal of Psychiatry, January 2010