Having type 2 diabetes in middle age could mean being four times more likely to develop dementia.
Diabetes is linked to dementia, with experts suspecting it can lead to the buildup of potentially harmful proteins in the brain.
The researchers looked at nearly 5,000 people followed for a decade to see if they developed dementia.
They found that people aged 55 with diabetes were four times more likely to develop dementia in the decade after age 65.
Most will have had type 2 diabetes, which is linked to poor diet and being overweight.
Diabetes and high blood pressure were the greatest risks for dementia in people aged 55.
For people aged 65, having cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or angina, was the biggest dementia-related risk.
People aged 70 and over had the greatest risk of dementia if they had ever had a stroke or had diabetes.
Having type 2 diabetes in middle age could mean being four times more likely to develop dementia
Professor Emer McGrath, who led the study from the National University of Ireland, Galway, said: ‘It shows that people with diabetes in their 50s are more likely to develop dementia – probably because the disease at a younger age can cause more damage to your body and brain.
“It’s important because these people have four times the risk of dementia in the decade after most people retire.”
“Nobody wants to be diagnosed with a disease like Alzheimer’s when they’re retired, they’ve stopped working and they want to start enjoying their carefree life.”
Over 325,000 people live with dementia in England – but have not been diagnosed
According to a study, more than 325,000 people in England are living with dementia but have not been diagnosed.
Diagnosis rates have fallen below the two-thirds target set by the government since the start of the pandemic.
The report found that there is a postcode lottery in terms of those diagnosed, with proportions ranging from 83% to less than 50%.
NHS England set an ambition in 2013 that two-thirds of people with dementia in England would receive diagnosis and follow-up.
But the rate fell from 68% in February 2020 to 62% in March, NHS Digital said.
Consultancy Future Health said data suggests more than 325,000 people in England may have undiagnosed dementia.
The report says that between 2020 and 2021, 430,000 people received a formal diagnosis, but around four in ten people with dementia did not.
It revealed the Midlands had the highest proportion of undiagnosed dementia, while London and the North West had the lowest.
But the analysis also revealed regional variations. In Stoke-on-Trent, the diagnosis rate is 83%, compared to 48% in the neighboring town of Stafford.
It is estimated that around 676,000 people in England and 850,000 in the UK have dementia.
NHS Digital figures compare the number of people suspected of having dementia with the number of people diagnosed.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, shows how the factors that can lead to dementia change at different ages.
The researchers looked at middle-aged people aged 55, people aged 65 and 70, and people aged 75 and 80.
For each group, they looked at whether people had had a stroke, had heart disease, diabetes or an irregular heartbeat, and whether they were taking blood pressure pills.
People with diabetes at age 55 were 4.3 times more likely to develop dementia in the decade after age 65.
But those who had diabetes by the age of 65 were only twice as likely to get dementia over the next decade.
This suggests that it is worse for the brain to have the disease at a younger age.
For people aged 65, the risk of dementia was most strongly related to whether or not a person had a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or angina, which can also affect the brain .
At 55, diabetes and systolic blood pressure were most prominent, with every ten point increase in a person’s peak blood pressure – which shows how hard the heart pumps blood around the body – was linked to a 12% higher risk of dementia. .
Diabetes and a history of stroke, which more than tripled the risk of dementia in people aged 70, were most important for people aged 70 and 75.
At age 80, the strongest risk factors for dementia were diabetes, linked to being 40% more likely to develop dementia, as well as having had a stroke and whether or not to take antihypertensives.
These pills can help the brain by controlling blood pressure and blood flow, but only for some people.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, looked at people from the United States and took their age and gender into account when assessing their risk for dementia.
Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The results of this study confirm existing research, which links vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, to an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.
“We know that poor vascular health can increase the risk of developing small vessel disease and other conditions that affect blood flow in the brain, which irreparably damages our brain cells.
“Studies like this are good for showing links, but we need to better understand why and how these conditions affect dementia risk.
“With this knowledge, researchers can then design treatments and prevention strategies that benefit people in their 40s – a critical time to reduce your risk of dementia.”
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