Aging Options

Is There Such a Thing as Type 3 Diabetes? A Growing Body of Research Says Yes: it’s Alzheimer’s Disease

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We don’t always find relevant articles for the AgingOptions blog on food-related websites, but this one we just read on a website called CookingLight really grabbed our attention – and as it turns out, the subject is one that is attracting increasing scrutiny from health researchers. There appears to be increasing clinical evidence of a connection between the condition in the body that triggers Type 2 Diabetes and the deterioration that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, leading some to call Alzheimer’s “type 3 diabetes.”

Lifestyle Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

For years, says writer Carolyn Williams in the CookingLight article, the root causes of dementia including Alzheimer’s, were believed to be largely genetic, and therefore essentially beyond our control. “However, there’s a growing body of research that suggests our lifestyle habits today…are major determinants of our cognitive function years down the road” – habits related to our diet, our body weight, and the amount of exercise we get, all of which affect the body’s management of glucose and insulin. “In fact, the connection is so compelling that some medical professionals now refer to Alzheimer’s disease as Type 3 diabetes.”

Physicians have understood for many years that type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes, is associated with extra body weight, a poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. These bad habits help create a condition in the body referred to as insulin resistance, in which the body’s cells don’t absorb the insulin created by the pancreas. Because these insulin-resistant cells fail to get enough energy by processing sugar, the body’s levels of blood sugar (blood glucose) remain elevated, and blood vessels and tissues can become damaged due to poor circulation and insufficient nutrients.  The Mayo Clinic website lists several common symptoms of type 2 diabetes including increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, frequent infections, sores that heal slowly, and areas of skin discoloration. Left untreated, the disease can lead to a whole host of serious complications – including Alzheimer’s disease.

Diabetes Affects the Brain and the Body

“While we don’t usually consider the brain as a site affected by diabetes, those with [type 2 diabetes] have an increased risk for damaged blood vessels in the brain,” says Carolyn Williams.  This damage, combined with neurons (brain nerve connections) that have become insulin resistant, increases the risk for cognitive decline, not just for those with type 2 diabetes but also for those considered prediabetic. The CookingLight article cites a study done earlier this year in which subjects with sustained higher levels of glucose showed greater mental decline than those with normal glucose. The study tracked subjects over a full decade.  Indeed, according to Williams, the same issues at the root of type 2 diabetes –  insulin-resistance and metabolic imbalance – also appear to be closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  As with the body’s cells in type 2 diabetics, cells in the brain lose their ability to properly use fuel sources, disrupting the brain’s internal communication mechanism and causing inflammation. Once this process begins and neurons start to die, all the common symptoms of dementia – such as memory loss, confusion, and personality changes – begin appearing.

“The idea that Alzheimer’s disease should be considered a third type of diabetes is still being explored,” writes Williams, but research suggests four strong connection linking Alzheimer’s with type 2 diabetes:

  • In both conditions, the triggers appear be the same: metabolic changes in the body and the development of insulin resistance in the cells.
  • Lifestyle factors – excess weight, poor diet, and lack of exercise – appear to have more to do in causing Alzheimer’s disease than genetic predisposition. “Only 5 percent of Alzheimer’s disease cases are attributed to a direct genetic link,” Williams states.
  • High blood glucose levels are strongly linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. A 2016 study examined patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and found that almost half showed elevated blood glucose levels.
  • While there is no evidence that type 2 diabetes “causes” Alzheimer’s disease, there does appear to be statistical evidence that those with type 2 diabetes have a “significantly increased risk” of developing it.

Better Habits Now, Better Physical and Mental Health Later

The important take-away from the CookingLight article is crystal clear, Carolyn Williams emphasizes. “All of this suggests that adopting healthy lifestyle habits to maintain good blood glucose management in early adulthood is key.” She suggests people eat a balanced diet which includes moderating carbohydrate intake. Skip added sugars and unhealthy snack foods. Adopt a steady exercise program. Get your body weight to a healthy level and keep it there. Control your stress-level and get plenty of sleep. And most of all, get started now – don’t wait until you think you may be developing a health problem. Cognitive decline, says the article, is like “a slow-burning fire” that people ignore until it’s too late. Type 2 diabetes also develops slowly over time. “Don’t wait for symptoms to appear to change health habits,” Williams advises, advice we echo wholeheartedly.

Get Moving – to a LifePlanning Seminar!

The bottom line advice couldn’t be simpler: it’s time to change our bad habits and get moving. It’s tough to argue with a recommendation like that. Here at AgingOptions we have similar advice to offer when it comes to retirement planning, namely that it’s time to stop sitting around hoping your retirement future will somehow take care of itself. Instead, get moving and come learn the facts about a breakthrough in retirement planning called LifePlanning. Can a retirement plan show you how to make sure your medical, financial, legal, housing and family “threads” are all woven together into a seamless fabric? Can it help you protect your assets and avoid becoming a burden to those you love? The answer is yes, if it’s a LifePlan from AgingOptions.

For a simple and cost-free next step, come join Rajiv Nagaich from AgingOptions at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar. We offer these throughout the region – so for dates, times and locations, visit our Live Events page where you can select the seminar of your choice. Then register online, or call us for assistance. We’ll look forward to meeting you soon!

(originally reported at




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