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'We know the damage diabetes can do to our bodies, but not to our minds'

One third of people were unaware of the link between the condition and dementia.

Image: Shutterstock/Montri Thipsorn

OVER ONE-THIRD of people aren’t aware that having type 2 diabetes increases the risk of developing dementia.

A new study from Trinity College also found that just under half (46%) of those surveyed were unaware that the risk of developing dementia can be potentially reduced.

The study, which was conducted by Trinity College Dublin between December 2016 and February 2017, examined data from over 500 respondents evenly divided between people with diabetes and members of the general population.

The study’s lead author, Dr Catherine Dolan, from Trinity College Dublin, working with the Dementia: Understand Together campaign, believes the study highlights a lack of awareness of brain health complications that can arise as a result of diabetes.

“Although awareness of diabetes as a risk factor for dementia was somewhat higher among people with diabetes, overall one in three of those surveyed were unaware that dementia can be a complication of diabetes.

“While there is greater awareness of the potential impact of diabetes on organs such as the kidneys and eyes, unfortunately there is much less awareness that having diabetes increases a person’s risk of developing dementia two-to-three-fold. Also concerning is the finding that just under half are unaware that there are steps we can take that may potentially reduce our risk of developing dementia.

These findings are particularly worrying given that the number of people with type 2 diabetes in Ireland is set to increase over the next 20 years mainly due to obesity, sedentary and inactive lifestyles and our ageing population.

Dolan says that people of all ages should be aware of the symptoms of dementia.

“Common symptoms of dementia may include difficulties with thinking and language, problem-solving and carrying out everyday tasks, as well as issues with memory loss and changes in mood and behaviour.

These symptoms can impact on the management of a person’s diabetes, potentially leading to other complications and adversely affecting their quality of life. If a person is worried or concerned that they may be experiencing these symptoms, it is important that they speak to a doctor.

“By taking measures to reduce our risk of diabetes ̶ leading a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, reducing your alcohol intake and not smoking, and managing conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol ̶ we are also potentially helping to reduce our risk of developing dementia.”

If a person is worried that they or a member of their family may be experiencing symptoms of dementia, they can Freephone 1800 341 341 and speak with a dementia advisor.

Read: ‘It was like a freight train came and hit us and we really didn’t see it coming’

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