Are people with diabetes more likely to get Alzheimer’s?
Absolutely. Their risk is doubled, at least. Obesity also increases the risk of cognitive impairment, or mental decline. This doesn’t mean that everyone who has diabetes will develop Alzheimer’s or that all people with Alzheimer’s have diabetes. The important thing to recognize is that there is considerable overlap between Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
I’ve never heard that. Is this idea new?
In reality, before about 1980, there was very little overlap between Alzheimer’s and diabetes. In fact, up until about 1980, deaths from diabetes were declining in the United States. That’s probably because of the improvements in medical treatment. But, between 1980 and now, the deaths from Alzheimer’s and diabetes have skyrocketed at alarming rates. The diabetes story is especially frightening because, everyone agrees that today we have much better medical treatments for diabetes than we did in the 1960s and 1970s – so, why should the death rates be so high now?
Maybe people are just living longer. Isn’t that the case?
People are living longer, but more important, they are surviving with various diseases that used to be fatal. On the surface, this argument might explain the increasing death rate trends for diabetes and Alzheimer’s. But, closer examination of the data demonstrated something entirely different and, in fact, surprising.
We compared the Alzheimer’s death rates in 1980, to those in 2005, but instead of looking at the entire population as a single group, we examined the death rates according to age group. We looked at Alzheimer’s death rates in people between 45 and 54 years old, 55 and 64, 65 and 74, and so on. We found that within every single age group, the Alzheimer death rate was much higher in 2005 than it was in 1980. In other words, deaths from Alzheimer’s were considerably higher for 60 year olds in 2005 than they were in 1980. Worse yet, over that time period and until these days, the Alzheimer’s death rates continued to climb, year by year. Diabetes death rates increased sharply within each age group, just as they did for Alzheimer’s.
Most people think Alzheimer’s is caused by a gene problem.
Alzheimer’s disease occurrences are not strictly genetic. In fact, the vast majority of Alzheimer’s occurs sporadically.