High blood sugar increases dementia risk, regardless of diabetes status

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Seniors with higher than average blood sugar levels have an 18% increased risk for dementia, according to a new study.

In people without diabetes, an average glucose level of 115 milligrams per deciliter led to an increased risk when compared to an average of 100 mg/dl. In people with diabetes, the dementia risk was 40% higher for people with an average glucose level of 190 mg/dl, when compared to an average of 160 mg/dl, the study found.

Researchers from various universities, including the University of Washington and Harvard University, tested more than 2,000 seniors' glucose levels. After about seven years, they retested the older adults and found that slightly more than 500 had developed dementia. Almost all had higher average glucose levels, which correlated with an increased risk for dementia.

The report notes that ditching vending machine snacks and sugary treats might not help in warding off high blood sugar levels.

"Your body turns your food into glucose, so your blood sugar levels depend not only on what you eat but also on your individual metabolism: how your body handles your food,” said first author Paul K. Crane, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine, adjunct associate professor of health services at the UW School of Public Health, and affiliate investigator at Group Health Research Institute.

The study is available in The New England Journal of Medicine