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Diabetes and Dementia

Posted on September 18, 2017 | No Comments on Diabetes and Dementia

Diabetes has long been associated with serious complications such as strokes, heart attacks and limb amputations. Yet long-term poorly controlled diabetes may bring about complications that may not be as dreadful and life-threatening but are debilitating to the individual just the same. One such complication is dementia.

To older individuals, it is considered essential that their mental faculties remain intact even in their declining years. Memories of yesteryears are profoundly appreciated. They want to be able to travel, to enjoy the company of family and friends, to develop their hobbies, to learn new things and to function independently. Dementia, prevents them from enjoying these liberties.

A persons memory declines gradually over time. Everybody goes through the “benign forgetfulness of aging”. The occasional misplaced eyeglasses and car keys, difficulty with remembering faces and names, and a few forgotten appointments may be excused because of advancing age. Memory loss becomes frank dementia when it disturbs the executive and social functioning of an individual.

When tasks are no longer carried out as efficiently as before, when bank transactions become erroneous or when,one gets lost even within his own home, these symptoms become clinically significant. Aside from the memory impairment, dementia may also be associated with depression, language dysfunction, sleep and eating disorders, mood swings, hallucinations and behavioral changes. In far advanced stages, an individual with dementia may become minimally interactive even with his own caregivers and totally dependent on his activities of daily living.

Causes of dementia
The two most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease (60 percent) and vascular dementia (20 percent). Another 20 percent of persons with dementia may have a mixture of both types. Alzheimer’s dementia appears to have a genetic basis and its most important risk factors include age, female gender and low educational level.

Its association with diabetes and hypertension is still controversial. Vascular dementia, on the other hand, is related to the occurrence of strokes. Therefore, individuals who have previous history of strokes or have definite stroke risk factors (hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia) are predisposed to develop this kind of dementia.

Studies conducted on persons with diabetes followed up over time showed that they were more likely to develop dementia than those who did not have diabetes. One explanation is that poorly controlled diabetes may lead to recurrent strokes in the future and later the development of vascular dementia.

If a person is noted to have memory loss and is suspected to have dementia, several examinations are conducted by neurologists and psychologists to ascertain the diagnosis. Among these, are neuroimaging procedures like CT scan and MRI, assessment of thyroid, kidney, liver function, and blood examinations to rule out other causes of cerebral dysfunction. The mental status is then tested using standardized tests to characterize and determine the degree of severity of the dementia.

Once the diagnosis is established, medications are given specifically for the particular type of dementia. Aside from this, medications for the depression, behavioral changes, abnormal movements, insomnia, loss of appetite may be given to improve the symptoms. Generally, the realistic treatment goal for dementia is to prevent its progression and keep the patient functionally independent.

Minding your mind
As with the other known complications of diabetes, the key to preventing vascular dementia is good sugar control. All stroke risk factors have to be kept in check like hypertension, smoking and high cholesterol levels.

And of course, the risk for developing any form of dementia is decreased by maintaining an active mind. Constant mental stimulation has been proven to be helpful. Acquiring new hobbies like painting, new skills like internet surfing, solving puzzles, reading books, watching educational programs,and joining clubs can help keep one’s mind remain alert and productive. Lowering cholesterol levels, taking vitamin E and drinking a little red wine every now and then have been proposed to lower the risk of acquiring dementia.

Dementia robs a person of his ability to appreciate memories and to enjoy life. Yet in so many ways, it can be prevented. Remember the formula: maintain a healthy mind and a healthy body at all times. It’s clear, it’s simple and it will guarantee that one will surely age gracefully.

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