Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in California have developed a simple way for doctors to assess the risk of developing dementia in people specifically with type 2 diabetes.
Dementia is a common condition in the elderly that causes brain cells to be lost leading to symptoms including forgetfulness, confusion and mood swings.
Type 2 diabetes and forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are well documented as having close links but until now, no risk score had been developed to help identify those at the highest risk of developing dementia.
In developing the risk score, researchers reviewed almost 30,000 patients with type 2 diabetes that were over 60 years old. The researchers reviewed 45 different risk factors, accessed from patient records, to build the risk score.
This risk model, called the Diabetes-Specific Dementia Risk Score (DSDRS), calculates a score from 1 to 20.
The study showed that those with the lowest risk score had approximately a 5% chance of developing dementia within the next 10 years. Those with the highest risk score had a 73% of developing the condition.
The risk factors found to be statistically responsible for the large increase in risk were:

Age
Education
Acute metabolic event - such as coma resulting from extreme blood sugar levels
Microvascular disease - such as retinopathy, neuropathy and nephropathy
Diabetic foot complications
Cerebrovascular disease - such as stroke or brain haemorrhages
Heart disease
Depression

All of the factors taken into account in the risk score are easy for doctors to collect from health records meaning that a risk score can be obtained within a routine appointment.
People with diabetes can work to achieve a lower risk score by taking measure to avoid complications of diabetes such as keeping active and working to achieve good control of blood glucose levels.

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