Dementia: Links with Hypoglycemia

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Dementia: Links with Hypoglycemia

 

Transcript:

 

Host:  Medical University of South Carolina

 

Welcome to this month’s Diabetes Care newsletter.  Our topic is dementia risk for older people increased by low blood sugar.  Older people with type 2 diabetes who have been in the hospital with severe low blood sugar levels seem to have a greater risk of developing dementia, says a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

 

It’s not yet clear whether the more common, less severe episodes of low blood sugar are also linked with an increased dementia risk.  Hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar, episodes are marked by dizziness, fainting and even seizures.  Study author, Dr. Rachel Whitmer, says hypoglycemic episodes that were severe enough to require hospitalization or an emergency room visit were linked with a greater risk of dementia.  This was particularly true for patients who had multiple episodes.  The study suggests that hypoglycemia is one of the reasons people with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk for dementia, says Dr. Whitmer.  It also shows that maintaining control of blood sugar levels is a critical issue particularly for the elderly.

 

People with type 2 diabetes are at a 32 percent greater risk for dementia, although the reasons for that aren’t clear.  People with pre-diabetes are also at greater risk.  Diabetes expert Dr. _____ cautions that the study doesn’t actually prove a cause and effect relationship between the two conditions.  He says the dementia could be from the fluctuation of glucose since high blood sugar is also toxic to the cells.  Dr. Whitmer notes that its likely hypoglycemia is only one reason for the increased risk of dementia in people with diabetes.

 

The issue is an important one as the population of people with type 2 diabetes continues to grow.  In the U.S. alone, some 24 million people have the condition.  More are expected as the population ages.  The study authors followed more than 16,000 patients with type 2 diabetes from 1980 to 2007.  The average age of the study participants was 65.  Twenty-two years of follow up looked at hypoglycemic episodes and more than four years were devoted to dementia diagnoses.  The association they found could be from any number of causes, including rapid death of nerve cells in the brain or decreased blood supply to the brain.  It could also be a result of too much insulin over time, possibly causing damage to neurons or changes in the brain. 

 

For more information, always consult your doctor.  Thank you for listening.  Please visit our website for more information on health and wellness topics. 


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