Healthy Habits Ward Off Dementia

Diabetes patients with depression showed high risk for developing dementia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) The risk of dementia is higher in diabetic patients that also have depression. Healthy diet, exercise and treatment for depression may help lower this risk significantly.

A recent study crunched the numbers of patients with both diabetes and depression against those with diabetes alone.

Diabetes patients have a 20 percent chance of also having depression and that group has twice the rate of dementia.

"Eat plenty of veggies, exercise regularly and quit smoking!"

Wayne Katon, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington Medical School, led a team to investigate the risk of dementia in type II diabetes patients that also have depression.

Previous research has shown that depression is a risk factor for dementia. Dr. Katon’s team set out to determine whether depression was an even greater risk factor for dementia in patients with type II diabetes.

A sample of 19,239 diabetes patients aged 30-75 from Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit healthcare management group in Northern California, were surveyed.

Patients with diabetes alone and patients with diabetes and depression together were selected. All patients were then monitored for signs of dementia over the next 3 to 5 years.

At the beginning of the study, 3,766 patients had both depression and diabetes, 80 of those patients, or 2.1 percent, developed dementia. The rest of the group, 15,473, only had diabetes and 158, or 1 percent, developed dementia.

As the years went on, patients with both depression and diabetes had a 100 percent higher risk for developing dementia.

Authors said, “Depression in patients with diabetes was associated with a substantively increased risk for development of dementia compared with those with diabetes alone.”

That is to say that patients with both depression and diabetes are at a greater risk for dementia than diabetes patients without depression.

The study said, “The link between these two disorders appears to be bidirectional, with depressive episodes developing earlier in life leading to an increased risk of diabetes and adult-onset diabetes increasing the subsequent risk of depression.”

Diabetes increases the overall risk of dementia by 47 percent. In this study 20 percent of patients with diabetes also had depression.

The study said a lot of the reasons depression and diabetes went together were because patients did not stick to healthy habits of diet and exercise, nor did they quit smoking cigarettes.

These poor lifestyle habits contributed to poor glycemic control and increased vascular health risks.

There is hope: “Recent data based on prospective follow-up of a cohort of 1,433 persons in the general population older than 65 years found that effectively treating depression and diabetes as well as increasing fruit and vegetable consumption could potentially lead to a 20.7 percent reduction in incidence of dementia.”

Eliminating depression in this same group reduced dementia an estimated additional 10 percent.

Deborah Gordon, MD, a specialist in natural diabetes reversal, said, "Physicians who focus on health recognize the overlapping benefits in adopting a healthy lifestyle, a principle confirmed by this study.  How to best ensure adherence to these practices is the question."

"I stress that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables must also contain healthy proteins and fats to be satisfying, and that exercising with a group or class adds friendship and community as effective reinforcements." 

This study was published in the April edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Funding for this study was provided by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health Services, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 29, 2012
Last Updated:
December 4, 2012