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May 2021

Study identifies dementia risk factors in T2D

New research could explain why people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop dementia, help identify risk factors and inform interventions to help prevent or delay the condition.

The research analysed ‘cardiometabolic factors’ – such as blood pressure, blood sugars and cholesterol levels – in people with type 2 diabetes across two decades. The team identified changes in these factors during this period that were associated with developing dementia in later life.

Dementia is more common in people with type 2 diabetes, but the reason why they are more at risk hasn’t been clear.

Researchers analysed data from 227,580 people with type 2 diabetes over the age of 42 years, around 10% of whom went on to develop dementia. The team examined the participants’ medical history across the 20 years prior to their dementia diagnosis to look at changes in cardiometabolic factors and bodyweight, and compared these to people who didn’t develop dementia.

Over the 20-year period, people who developed dementia had higher blood pressure between 11-19 years before their dementia diagnosis, compared with those who didn’t develop dementia.

Blood sugar and cholesterol levels were also found to be generally higher across the entire 20-year period among people with type 2 diabetes who developed dementia, compared with those who didn’t.

These findings suggest that by monitoring cardiometabolic factors and managing blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and bodyweight, people with type 2 diabetes could be supported to lower their risk of dementia.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, which funded the study, said: ‘These crucial findings have uncovered how type 2 diabetes may contribute to dementia onset. Changes in the body that lead to dementia occur years before symptoms arise. Knowing which factors contribute to the development of dementia, and when they have the biggest impact, is vital.’

Practice Nurse 2021;51(4):9