Higher blood sugar levels correspond with dementia - even without diabetes

It has long been known that diabetes can up the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

But a major new study also suggests that high blood sugar levels – even without the presence of diabetes – can increase risk for dementia. As blood sugar levels rise, so does risk for dementia, said researchers from the University of Washington.

'A clean pattern'

The study showed that participants with higher blood sugar were 40 percent more likely to develop dementia than even diabetics who were at the lower end of the blood glucose spectrum.

Results of the study challenge what researchers have thought about diabetes and dementia in the past: that high blood sugar levels are the main concern. The findings suggest there is more of a progression that occurs, which means that as blood sugar gradually rises, there could be other factors involved in why dementia risk follows along a parallel path.

“It’s a nice, clean pattern," said Dallas Anderson, a scientist at the National Institute on Aging. “This is part of a larger picture."

Anderson noted that exercise, good blood pressure control and healthy blood sugar levels are viable ways to delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

Would lowering blood sugar be a cure?

While the study did not track whether lowering blood sugar levels would help treat or prevent dementia, researchers said this concept should be tested in a new study. The findings do not suggest that people get blood sugar tests they would not normally get otherwise.

“We don’t know from a study like this whether bringing down the glucose level will prevent or somehow modify dementia,” said Dr. Paul Crane of the University of Washington in Seattle, to the Washington Post.

The results also suggest that the recommended healthy range for blood sugar – in both diabetics and nondiabetics – might need to be modified.

"It may be that with the brain, every additional bit of blood sugar that you have is associated with higher risk,” Crane said. “It changes how we think about thresholds, how we think about what is normal, what is abnormal.”

The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: Washington Post

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