Controlling blood-sugar levels may help prevent dementia, a study released on Tuesday showed, offering hope to patients with diabetes that keeping glucose levels in check might reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive impairments.
Studying 350,000 patients with Type 2 diabetes, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that those with poor blood-sugar control had a 50% higher risk of being admitted to hospital than those with good control.
Scientists have previously suggested a link between elevated blood-sugar levels and Alzheimer’s disease, but the researchers said this was the first large-scale study looking at how controlling the presence of glucose in the blood affected the risk of being diagnosed with dementia in the future.
The study, presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference in Stockholm, shows an association between the two conditions but doesn’t prove cause and effect.
Still, scientists say the results underline the need for people with diabetes to monitor their blood-sugar levels closely and for physicians to actively treat diabetes patients even as cognitive functions decline.
“As a preventative measure, this research could be incredibly important,” said Krister Westerlund, chairman of the association Alzheimer Sweden. “We tend not to notice difficult cognitive brain diseases until one needs care, so if we can discover potential problem sources earlier, it’s very valuable.”
Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to transform sugar, or glucose, into energy, leading to high concentrations of sugar in the blood. According to the International Diabetes Federation, some 387 million people world-wide suffer from the disease, which if left untreated can cause heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and death. Dementia affects nearly 47 million people around the world, with most people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which develops over time and causes progressively worse memory loss, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.