A Vicious Cycle of Alzheimer’s and Diabetic Hypoglicemia?

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A study conducted recently at the Univeraity of California- San Francisco published online in  JAMA Internal Medicine. The research was focused in on finding a close link between diabetes and dementia.

According to the journal, diabetic patients with low blood sugar may have an increased risk of developing dementia, and patients with dementia or other mild forms of cognitive impairment may experience an increased the risk of developing low blood sugar.When the testing first started in 1997, researchers analyzed records of seventy to seventy nine year old patients from Memphis and Pittsburg. For twelve years, the federally funded study UCSF Health, Aging, and Body Composition study (UCSF ABC for short) patients underwent periodic testing for cognitive function. Of the test subject, half caucasian and half African American, none had dementia at the beginning of the study, but all either had diabetes or were diagnosed as diabetic througout the course of the study.  Analyzing data from these 783 diabetic test subjects lead to results that found hospitalization for hypoglicemia among the diabetic, elderly patients was linked with a doubled risk of developing dementia later.  Also, studied patients with dementia were twice as likely to have a hypoglycemic event occur.  This study prompts concern that patients risk entering a sharp decline in which diabetes and dementia fuel one another and drastically decrease health.  Dr. Kristine Yaffe, senior author and principal investigator of the study, stated that elderly individuals with dementia or mild forms of cognitive impairment may be less able to manage complex regimens for diabetic treatment, and even less able to recognize symptoms of hypoglycemia and be able to respond properly, leading to a greater risk of severe hypoglycemia.  While studies of a similar sort have yielded inconsistent results in the past, this particular research holds promise because it tracked participants from a baseline over a relatively long period of time.

By Lauren Horne, Edited by Emma Henson


1) Kristine Yaffe et al. Association Between Hypoglycemia and Dementia in a BiracialCohort of Older Adults With Diabetes MellitusHypoglycemia and Dementia in Older Adults With DM. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6176

2) University of California – San Francisco (2013, June 10). Alzheimer’s and low blood sugar in diabetes may trigger a vicious cycle. Sci

The Roskamp Institute is a 501(c)3 research facility dedicated to translating the efforts of its qualified research staff into real-world results for those suffering from neurological diseases. To learn more about our programs and to get information about donating, visit www.rfdn.org.