Alzheimer’s Risk Increased in Men who Develop Mid-Life Diabetes

Mid-life changes, for most everyone, include increased weight, bigger waistlines and the onset of various health problems. A new study shows that men who develop mid-life diabetes have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life, as well as dementia and other cognitive declines.

Insulin resistance is a contributing factor to poor health. Smoking, lack of exercise and poor dietary habits lead to improper glucose metabolism, creating a vicious cycle of worsening health, and inability to lose weight. Excess glucose in the bloodstream leads to pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Scientists have been studying Alzheimer’s disease for decades, in hopes of finding clues to its origins. The results of a new study, “suggest a link between insulin problems and the origins of Alzheimer's disease”, per study author Elina Rönnemaa, MD, from Uppsala University, in Sweden. According to past studies, there is a strong link between diabetes and cognitive impairment, but the risk for the development of Alzheimer’s disease has not been studied.

In order to track the possible link, investigators followed 2269 men for up to 35 years, beginning at age 50. Insulin response, glucose levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking status and BMI were determined at baseline. The participants also completed a medical questionnaire. All subjects were contacted for re-examination of cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive testing at ages 70, 77, and 82 years. According to the study, the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia was directly associated with decreased insulin response at baseline.

The author concludes: "Our results have important public health implications given the increasing numbers of people developing diabetes and the need for more powerful interventions," said Dr. Rönnemaa.

It is never too late to take charge of your dietary habits. Focus on good eating early in life – as you can see, what you do today has a huge impact on the future of your health. In this study, the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease increased 1.5 times, up to thirty-five years later, as the result of insulin resistance.

Stay active, eat whole foods and try to stop smoking (a known contributor to insulin resistance). Lack of exercise and increased weight, especially around the middle, inhibits the body’s ability to utilize insulin. Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control and you will greatly decrease your chances of developing insulin resistance.

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, you should remember:

  • Glucose is the simple sugar that is the main source of energy for the body's cells. 
  • Insulin helps cells take in blood glucose and convert it to energy. 
  • If you have insulin resistance, your body's cells do not respond well to insulin.
  • Insulin resistance is a stepping-stone to type 2 diabetes. 
  • Lack of exercise and excess weight contribute to insulin resistance. 
  • Engaging in moderate physical activity and maintaining proper weight can help prevent insulin resistance. 
  • Insulin resistance plays a role in the development of cardiovascular disease, which damages the heart and blood vessels. 
  • Controlling blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and not smoking can also help prevent cardiovascular problems. 
  • The Diabetes Prevention Program confirmed that exercise and a low-calorie, low-fat diet are the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes.

It is extremely important to address issues of mental decline. Statistics show that cognition is an important skill that can ultimately decide whether or not you'll one day be capable of leading an independent lifestyle.

Ref: Neurology. 2008. Published online April 9.