1229 GMT January 19, 2019
Analyzing data from nearly 2.5 million participants in 14 studies, an international team of scientists found that women with type 2 diabetes may have a nearly 20 percent higher risk of developing vascular dementia than men with diabetes. Vascular dementia is characterized by memory, thinking and language difficulties due to reduced blood flow to the brain, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
But the risk for any form of dementia was the same for both genders, about 60 percent higher for diabetics than for people without the disease, according to the research, WebMD.
"It's plausible that the same mechanisms that drive the greater excess risk of heart disease and stroke in women with diabetes are also causing the excess risk of vascular dementia," said study author Rachel Huxley, head of the School of Public Health at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.
"We still don't fully understand why women with diabetes are at excess risk of vascular disease and it may be related to sex hormones," Huxley added. "It may also be that blood glucose levels in women with diabetes are much more, difficult to control than in men with diabetes."
But, the study didn't prove that type 2 diabetes caused either type of dementia; it merely showed an association between the two conditions.
About 44 million people worldwide are affected by dementia. According to study documents, dementia symptoms stem from two main causes: Alzheimer's disease, which isn't caused by blood vessel damage, or vascular dementia, which is preventable. Lifestyle risk factors for vascular dementia include type 2 diabetes, smoking and obesity.
The new review built on research spanning more than a decade, Huxley said, looking at records from 2.3 million individuals without dementia and more than 102,000 dementia patients.
While the nearly 20 percent greater risk of vascular dementia was noted among women compared to men with diabetes, the risk for nonvascular dementia (predominantly Alzheimer's disease) associated with having diabetes was roughly the same in both genders — but still 40 percent higher than for people without diabetes.