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Scientists link high blood sugar to dementia

Scientists link high blood sugar to dementia

By Chris Strub

Physicians and scientists have long thought that the 346 million people around the world with diabetes face an increased risk of Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia. But a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of dementia is directly correlated to a rise in blood sugar - even at pre-diabetes levels.

"It's a nice, clean pattern," that the risk rises as blood sugar does, said Dallas Anderson, a scientist at the National Institute on Aging, which paid for the study.
Researchers tracked the blood glucose levels of 2,067 members of Group Health, a nonprofit HMO, for an average of seven years. Most patients did not have Type 2 diabetes when the study began, and none showed any signs of dementia. The average age of the patient at the start of the study was 76.

Participants were subject to standard tests for thinking skills every two years, and polled about smoking, exercise and other potential risk factors for dementia.
About a quarter of the patients developed some form of dementia during the study, primarily Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia. The key finding for Dr. Paul Crane, the lead author and associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington, was "... a steadily increasing risk associated with ever-higher blood glucose levels, even in people who didn't have diabetes."

The correlation was present even when researchers took into the account whether participants had the apoE4 gene, which raises the risk for Alzheimer's.
"There's no threshold, no place where the risk doesn't go up any further or down any further," said Crane.

The dementia association climbed with higher blood sugar levels and, conversely, dropped as blood sugar levels dropped.

And among the 232 participants who had diabetes at the outset of the study, those with higher blood sugar - 190 mg/dL -- were 40 percent more likely to develop dementia than those at the lower end of the glucose spectrum, averaging 160 mg/dL.

The study determines that healthy measures to prevent diabetes are even more critical in avoiding the onset of dementia. Here are some recommended measures:

--Get more sleep. Extending the hours of sleep can improve the body's use of insulin.
--Exercise. The CDC recommends 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week.
--Lose weight. Losing 5 to 7 percent of your total body weight can delay and possibly prevent the disease.

Sources: MedicalNewsToday.com, NYTimes.com, The Associated Press