The Crossover Between Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

I started writing this article months ago. I lost count how many times I opened and closed it before I could even write my first sentence. It’s important to talk about because of the potential crossover between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. So…here goes. My dad has dementia. A little more than a year ago, we moved dad into a lovely nursing home. It’s a place I would like to live if circumstances dictated that I needed to be somewhere safe and secure. As lovely as dad’s new home is, dementia is an awful disease. It robs you of your loved one. It robs your loved one of their family and life before those moments, forgotten, like dust in the wind. This disease takes the person and leaves their shell behind, almost empty, with only glimmers of recognition while the family hopes for more. This disease has a strong connection to type 2 diabetes.1,4

The diabetes and alzheimer’s connection

Similar to ‘diabetes,’ ‘dementia’ is a general term which includes several types. Similar to ‘type 2 diabetes,’ ‘Alzheimer’s’ is the most common type of dementia. My dad has mixed dementia; dementia originating from several causes, such as a vascular origin with some of the classic Alzheimer characteristics. According to the Alzheimer’s Association: “In the most common form of mixed dementia, the abnormal protein deposits associated with Alzheimer’s disease coexist with blood vessel problems linked to vascular dementia.” 2

Diabetes, like Alzheimer’s, can also have associated vascular complications, typically retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy, atherosclerosis and stroke. Further, there are even more linkages between the two disease now.

Diabetes

Alzheimer’s

  • brain has difficulty using glucose
  • cognitive impairment possibly due to brain nerve cell damage
  • increased risk for cardiovascular disease

Based on all the things that are now known, people with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s.3 Needless to say, this alarms me.

My first reaction was “Great. Kick me when I’m down. Thanks.”
My second reaction was “Oh, sh*t… Will I be my dad…?”

I am at risk for dementia related to my family history. I am at greater risk because I have type 2 diabetes. I am at even higher risk because my dad has mixed dementia which includes the vascular piece similar to type 2 diabetes.5 Dad has no history of diabetes. I do. That is very scary to me. I worry about the small things I forget…is my brain failing me? Will I have Alzheimer’s? I’ve caught my husband and kids off guard a couple of times when I broke into tears wondering if dad’s path will be my own someday.

It’s not all gloomy though

I also know, there are things that lessen or offset my risk for developing dementia: keeping my blood sugars in range, eating healthy, getting exercise almost every day, ensuring my heart stays healthy, challenging myself and my brain, staying in touch and active with friends to name a few.

Is it inevitable I will have Alzheimer’s or some mixed dementia just because I have type 2 diabetes? No, it’s not inevitable. But it sure does motivate me to continue to do the best I can with my diabetes.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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