Health Buzz: Diabetes Boosts Dementia Risk

Preventing Alzheimer's disease: 7 risks to consider; behind the Best Nursing Homes rankings.


Study: People With Diabetes More Prone to Dementia

Having diabetes may increase your risk of developing dementia, a new study suggests. Researchers tracked more than 1,000 Japanese adults ages 60 and older for 11 years, and found that 27 percent of those with diabetes developed dementia, compared with 20 percent of those with normal blood sugar levels. That equates to a 35 percent increased risk of dementia for people with diabetes, according to findings published Monday in Neurology. Although researchers don't fully understand the connection, they speculate that it's because diabetes is a risk factor for vascular disease—a form of heart disease that can harden arteries and veins—and when blood vessels don't allow sufficient oxygen to reach the brain, dementia can develop. "Our findings emphasize the need to consider diabetes as a potential risk factor for dementia," said study author Yutaka Kiyohara, a professor in the graduate school of medical science at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, in an interview with ABC News. "Diabetes is a common disorder, and the number of people with it has been growing in recent years all over the world. Controlling diabetes is now more important than ever."

  • Why Diabetes May Triple by 2050
  • 7 Things to Know if You've Received a Diabetes Diagnosis
  • Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: 7 Risks to Consider

    Ask most folks to name their biggest fear about growing old and chances are they won't say gray hair and wrinkles, but the devastating loss of their mental capacity. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementias, striking as many as 5 million Americans., U.S. News reported in 2010. While the disease has genetic underpinnings, it's also associated with certain lifestyle factors including diet, exercise, and level of education. So what steps can you take to help prevent it?

    Some studies suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat may be the ticket. Others point to folic acid or fish oil supplements as beneficial. Still others have found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol confers some protection. But an expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health says there's not enough evidence from any of these studies to warrant making lifestyle changes to lower your risk of Alzheimer's.

    "The primary limitation with most of these studies is the distinction between association and causality," wrote the NIH experts in their "state of the science" paper published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine. For instance, people with a higher level of education have a lower risk of Alzheimer's, but that doesn't mean going to grad school will protect you. It could be that those individuals read more books and play more chess in their lifetime than other folks, which continually challenges their brains and has a disease-preventing effect. [Read more: Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: 7 Risks to Consider.]

    • Memory Loss With Age: Not Necessarily Normal
    • Scientists Are Changing the Definition of 'Old Age'
    • Best Nursing Homes: Behind the Rankings

      Millions of Americans spent at least part of 2011 in one of the nation's 16,000-plus nursing homes. How can those millions of people and their families find a source of good care? To ease the difficult search, U.S. News ranks and displays data about nearly every U.S. nursing facility and updates the information every quarter. The 2011 Honor Roll lists 18 homes that received perfect ratings for four consecutive quarters.

      The U.S. News rankings rely on data from Nursing Home Compare, a consumer web site run by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS sets and enforces standards for all nursing homes enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. (For government purposes, a nursing home is a Medicare or Medicaid facility that provides 24-hour nursing care and other medical services. We don't rank retirement and assisted-living communities, which aren't part of Medicare or Medicaid and don't offer such services.) The data for Nursing Home Compare come from regular health inspections carried out by state agencies and from the homes themselves. Using that information, CMS assigns an overall ratings of one to five stars to each nursing home, other than a small number too new to have generated meaningful data. Homes are also given one to five stars in how well they do in the health inspections, in providing enough nurses, and providing a high level of quality of care. [Read more: Best Nursing Homes: Behind the Rankings.]