Study reveals one in three unaware diabetes increases dementia risk

Ahead of World Diabetes Day, New Research Study Reveals One in Three Unaware Diabetes Increases Dementia Risk

Study of 500 people also finds one in two unaware that risk of developing dementia may be potentially reduced

Ahead of World Diabetes Day tomorrow (November 14, 2017), a new research study has revealed that one in three people (35%) are not aware that having diabetes increases the risk of developing dementia.

The study also found that just under half (46%) of those surveyed were unaware that the risk of developing dementia can be potentially reduced. The study, which was conducted by Trinity College Dublin between December 2016 and February 2017, examined data from over 500 respondents evenly divided between people with diabetes and members of the general population.

The study's lead author, Dr. Catherine Dolan, from Trinity College Dublin, working with the 'Dementia: Understand Together' campaign, believes the study highlights a lack of awareness of brain health complications that can arise as a result of diabetes and also the need to inform and educate people about the steps that they can take to potentially reduce their risk of developing dementia:

"Although awareness of diabetes as a risk factor for dementia was somewhat higher among people with diabetes, overall one in three of those surveyed were unaware that dementia can be a complication of diabetes. While there is greater awareness of the potential impact of diabetes on organs such as the kidneys and eyes, unfortunately there is much less awareness that having diabetes increases a person’s risk of developing dementia two-to-three-fold. Also concerning is the finding that just under half are unaware that there are steps we can take that may potentially reduce our risk of developing dementia.

"These findings are particularly worrying given that the number of people with diabetes in Ireland is set to increase over the next 20 years mainly due to obesity, sedentary and inactive lifestyles and our ageing population. A report by the Institute of Public Health in 2010 entitled ‘Making Chronic Conditions Count’ predicted a 62% increase in the number of people with diabetes in Ireland by 2020.

"Common symptoms of dementia may include difficulties with thinking and language, problem-solving and carrying out everyday tasks, as well as issues with memory loss and changes in mood and behaviour. These symptoms can impact on the management of a person’s diabetes, potentially leading to other complications and adversely affecting their quality of life. If a person is worried or concerned that they may be experiencing these symptoms, it is important that they speak to a doctor. Early diagnosis gives people the best chance to prepare and plan for the future, and to receive treatment.

"By taking measures to reduce our risk of diabetes  ̶  leading a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, reducing your alcohol intake and not smoking, and managing conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol  ̶  we are also potentially helping to reduce our risk of developing dementia. This is particularly important for people aged between 40 and 65 years as evidence increasingly suggests that the changes in the brain which eventually lead to symptoms in those individuals that develop dementia begin in mid-life."

The newly launched website www.understandtogether.ie provides information for people who are interested in finding out about dementia. The website features a service finder detailing county-by-county the dementia supports and services available. It also offers a range of training resources for carers and for businesses and organisations in the retail, transport, public and financial sectors. Support packs, including posters, leaflets and badges, can also be ordered. 

If a person is worried that they or a member of their family may be experiencing symptoms of dementia, they can Freephone 1800 341 341 and speak with a dementia advisor.

The Dementia: Understand Together initiative is led by the HSE in partnership with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio. It is funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the HSE’s Health and Wellbeing Division.

Last updated on: 13 / 11 / 2017