Type 2 Diabetes and Depression Linked to Increased Dementia Risk

People with Type 2 diabetes or depression may be at increased risk of dementia, according to new research from the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, and those who are dealing with both conditions may have an even higher risk of dementia. Approximately 29 million people in the United States have Type 2 diabetes, and people with diabetes are twice as likely to have depression.

To determine the risk of dementia in people with Type 2 diabetes, depression, or both, researchers looked at data in medical databases from nearly 2.5 million Danish citizens age 50 and older who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. The data was reviewed for the time frame covering 2007 through 2013.

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Over the course of the study period, 2.4% (59,663) of the subjects developed dementia, with diagnosis occurring, on average, at 81 years of age. Of those who developed the condition, 26.4% (15,729) had depression alone, 10.8% (6,466) had Type 2 diabetes alone, and 6.7% (4,022) had both conditions. Compared with adults who had neither condition, this translates to an increased dementia risk of 20% for those with Type 2 diabetes alone, 83% for those with depression alone, and 117% for those with both diabetes and depression. The risk of developing dementia as a result of having both Type 2 diabetes and depression was found to be greatest among those under 65.

The study did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between Type 2 diabetes, depression, and dementia, but the researchers note that those with depression are more likely to develop chronic medical conditions and less likely to adhere to treatment regimens. Diabetes also increases the likelihood of plaques developing in the blood vessels, increasing the risk of dementia.

The team plans to conduct further studies investigating exactly why diabetes, particularly when combined with depression, appears to increase the risk of dementia.

“Individuals with diabetes and/or depression are most certainly not powerless to avoid dementia in later life. I think it is important to point out that arguably the best treatment available for dementia is to prevent it from developing since we don’t have any treatments currently that either greatly improve quality of life for patients with dementia or reverse the course of the disease,” notes investigator Dimitry Davydow, MD. “What this argues for is, we need to do a better job of both identifying diabetes and depression and then really treating them once identified.”

In a commentary accompanying the study, Charles F. Reynolds III, MD, stated that “lifestyle choices, such as increasing physical activity, will also benefit the management” of both diabetes and depression.

For more information, read the article “Depression and diabetes combined may create even higher risk of cognitive decline” or see the study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. To learn about ways to keep your mind sharp, see “Keeping Your Brain Strong With Diabetes,” by nurse David Spero. And to learn about dealing with depression, see the article “Self-Managing Depression.”

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