CBNNews.com - Diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's and may speed up dementia once it begins, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Doctors say blood vessels to the brain are damaged by diabetes, but changes in the brain which underlie Alzheimer's may start long before diabetes is diagnosed.
"Alzheimer's is going to swamp the health care system," said Dr. John C. Morris, a neurology professor at Washington University in St. Louis and an adviser to the Alzheimer's Association.
Researchers have suggested that Alzheimer's could be called "Type 3 diabetes," a form of the disease that would affect the nervous system.
There are about 18 million Type 2 diabetics in America who have at least two to three times a non-diabetic's risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Dr. Ralph Nixon of New York University said people should not panic because genetics are still are the prime risk factor for dementia.
"It by no means means that you're going to develop Alzheimer's disease, and certainly many people with Alzheimer's don't have diabetes," he explained.
Still scientists said patients with diabetes should closely follow their doctor's advice for controlling it and try to lower high cholesterol and blood pressure that can harm the brain's blood supply.
It is estimated that about five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's and that number is expected to skyrocket to nearly 16 million by 2050.
Source: AP, Alzheimer's Association, New York Times