The Connection Between Diabetes And Alzheimer’s

The Connection Between Diabetes And Alzheimer’s

There has been a strong theory throughout the health care community that Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease may be linked. It appears as if many of the same people who developed Type 2 diabetes also developed Alzheimer’s.


Over the years, medical researchers have conducted numerous studies to determine what — if any — link is present between these two illnesses. While these studies haven’t found a definite link, they have shown that there is a very strong likelihood that a link exists between both diseases.

If you are wondering how a disease that causes high blood sugar could be linked to a degenerative brain disorder that causes memory loss, here is a look at how diabetes and Alzheimer’s might be connected.

Too Much Insulin Could Trigger Alzheimer’s Disease

Connection between Diabetes and Alzheimer'sThe brain relies upon chemicals to function properly. In fact, chemicals are responsible for everything from triggering the body’s response to pain and managing emotions to memory retrieval. If these chemicals become unbalanced, it could result in a number of problems ranging from memory loss to mood swings.

Research conducted by Albany University has suggested that when the body produces too much insulin, which happens with Type 2 diabetes, it could cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. The chemical imbalance interferes with the brain’s ability to retrieve memories. While this may be reversed if caught early enough, if the chemical imbalance is left untreated it could trigger the start of Alzheimer’s disease.

Inflammation of the Brain Results in Irreversible Damage

It is a known fact that high blood sugar causes internal inflammation. Medical experts are unsure why this happens, but it could be linked to the body’s inability to use the excessive insulin that is produced with diabetes.

While people are aware that inflammation can occur around the heart and intestines, they are unaware that inflammation can happen in the brain. When the brain becomes too inflamed — which can happen with untreated or uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes — it can cause extensive damage to the brain cells.

Damage to the brain cells can cause a number of problems from inability to remember key factors or information, to the loss of fine motor skills and other cognitive functions. This damage is very similar to what people with Alzheimer’s disease experiences.

Damage from Heart Disease Could Factor into the Alzheimer’s Connection

The American Heart Association estimates that approximately 68 percent of individuals over age 65 with diabetes pass away from some form of heart disease every year. This indicates a strong connection between heart disease and diabetes. Many researchers believe that if Alzheimer’s and diabetes are connected, it could be because of heart disease.

Heart disease has been known to cause extensive, irreversible damage to the blood vessels leading to and from the brain or heart. Evidence shows that when blood vessels are damaged around the brain it could result in symptoms that include memory loss. This could trigger the start of Alzheimer’s.

Are Alzheimer’s Disease and Diabetes Different Diseases or the Same Illness?

One of the biggest questions medical professionals have regarding diabetes and Alzheimer’s is: “Are these two different diseases or are they the same disease?”

Unfortunately, medical research has not provided a definite answer to the question.

There are some medical researchers who believe that the evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is a symptom of Type 2 diabetes. This belief stems from the fact that most of the research suggests that untreated or uncontrolled insulin levels lead to some type of damage — blood vessel, inflammation or chemical imbalance — resulting in memory loss. This would make Alzheimer’s more of an end-stage or late-stage Type 2 diabetes than a separate illness.

Even though some medical researchers believe Alzheimer’s is really an extension of Type 2 diabetes, others are reluctant to make that claim. While there is a strong correlation between both diseases, there is still is not enough evidence to suggest diabetes and Alzheimer’s are in fact one.

Over the years, as more and more research is conducted and medical research technology advances, a link between these two diseases may be found. Until that time, it can be assumed and backed with research that there is a strong connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Photo credit: bodytel via / CC BY-ND


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About Thomas Boston

Thomas Boston is both the founder of and a diabetic himself. He is focused on giving back to the diabetic community by helping to provide test strips to those who need them.

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