You've heard that diabetes hurts your heart, your eyes, your kidneys. New research indicates a more ominous link: That diabetes increases the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease and may speed dementia once it strikes. Doctors long suspected diabetes damaged blood vessels that supply the brain. It now seems even more insidious, that the damage may start before someone is diagnosed with full-blown diabetes, back when the body is gradually losing its ability to regulate blood sugar.
In fact, the lines are blurring between what specialists call "vascular dementia" and scarier classic Alzheimer's disease. Whatever it's labeled, there's reason enough to safeguard your brain by fighting diabetes and heart-related risks. The link has staggering societal implications: More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and cases already are projected to skyrocket in the next two decades as the population ages. The question is how much the simultaneous obesity-fueled epidemic of Type 2 diabetes may worsen that toll.