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Unmanaged Diabetes Significantly Increases Dementia Risk

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Mar 21, 2012

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Recent scientific findings suggest that people with diabetes have a significantly higher risk of developing dementia. Fitness and wellness professionals therefore have more reasons than ever to emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyle changes, including regular physical activity, in the role of diabetes management.

A longitudinal prospective cohort study featured over 90% of the older adults in Hisayama, Japan, a suburb of Fukuoka. Researchers enrolled 1,017 Japanese men and women, aged 60 and older, who did not have dementia. The purpose was to evaluate the association between blood glucose levels and the occurrence of dementia over time. Subjects completed a baseline test for oral glucose tolerance levels; investigators then followed the subjects for 15 years and tested for dementia. Two hundred and thirty-two people had developed the disease.

Data analysis showed that people with diabetes were twice as likely to exhibit dementia as those with normal blood sugar levels. In addition, people with impaired glucose tolerance, which had not yet progressed into diabetes, also had a higher risk of cognitive impairment than those with normal blood sugar values. To arrive at this conclusion, investigators adjusted for other factors such as age, gender, high blood pressure or high cholesterol to focus on the connection between blood sugar levels and the incidence of any type of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

“Our findings emphasize the need to consider diabetes as a potential risk factor for dementia,” said study author Yutaka Kiyohara, MD, PhD, of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. “This study also showed that the risk of developing dementia significantly increased with rising blood sugar level at 2 hours after ingestion of 75-g [grams] glucose, which corresponds to blood sugar levels in a post-meal state. This is a new finding in terms of studies on this issue.” More research was recommended.

The study appeared in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal, Neurology (2011; 77, 1126–34).

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at