The Connection Between Diabetes, Depression and Dementia

  • November 18, 2013
The Connection Between Diabetes, Depression and Dementia

A study performed by researchers at University of Washington found that both diabetes and depression can have a big impact on developing dementia as you age. The study looked at data for 3,000 people over the age of 55 who had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. On average, each participant had been living with Type 2 Diabetes for 9 years.

More than 2600 of the participants successfully completed a round of tests at the beginning of the study, 20 months into the study and at the study’s completion at 40 months. The tests were designed to measure the brain’s ability to register and process a stimulus, the ability to remember words over time, levels of depression or happiness and how the brain uses memory to plan actions and pay attention.

The majority of the participants had scores come back that indicated normal levels of happiness/sadness. 18 percent of the participants were depressed at the beginning of the study, 17 percent were depressed at the halfway mark and the end of the study, and 5 percent reported feeling depressed throughout the entire study.

"Depression appears to be an important risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline among patients with diabetes," Dr. Mark Sullivan, professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington and lead author of the study. "This study demonstrates that depression accelerates cognitive decline in patients with diabetes, over a short time frame, in all patient subgroups, and in all cognitive domains assessed.”

Depression and Diabetes have proven to overlap in past studies as well. The Centers for Disease Control report that 25 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have diabetes and the National Alliance for Mental Illness reports that 6.5 million of them are also suffering from depression.

Depression has been associated with increased levels of stress hormones and inflammation--both of which could directly contribute to cognitive decline. But the other disorders that are often seen in patients with diabetes may also harm cognition and promote depression. Diabetes can damage organs--namely the kidneys--eyes, nervous system and brain. It also increases the risk for heart attack or stroke.

If you’ve suffered from depression and/or have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, make sure you take the proper measures to protect your health. Talk to your doctor about all of your options and make the dietary changes necessary to keep your diabetes under control.

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