People who suffer from diabetes AND a cognitive impairment are at increased risk of heart disease

People who suffer from both diabetes AND a cognitive impairment are at an increased risk of developing heart disease because they are forgetting to take their medication, study finds

  • Researchers said type 2 diabetics with memory problems were more at risk
  • They compared rates of heart disease and strokes between the two groups
  • Scientists said the match could be due to patients forgetting to take medication
  • But admitted cognitive problems may not actually be triggering heart disease
  • Instead, they said both conditions may have a common cause due to diabetes 

People who have type 2 diabetes and a cognitive impairment are more at risk of suffering heart problems and stroke, a study says.

Researchers led by Tel Aviv University, Israel, found they were up to 1.6-times more likely to suffer from heart disease, and 1.8-times more likely to have a stroke or die.

They were compared to type 2 diabetics who did not have a cognitive impairment over the five-year study.

Scientists suggested memory decline could be the culprit, arguing it may be leading to patients forgetting to take regular medication.

This can trigger un-controlled blood sugar levels, damaging blood vessels and nerves ensuring the heart function properly.

The study was observational, meaning it could not determine whether higher heart disease rates were down to cognitive impairment or another factor.

Researchers led by Tel Aviv University, Israel, monitored 9,000 diabetics for five years, including 900 who also had memory problems (stock)

More than 37 million Americans have type 2 diabetes — or one in ten —, while more than 16 million are suffering from a cognitive impairment.

People who have diabetes are already known to be around twice as likely to suffer from heart problems, with the two conditions often going hand-in-hand.

But few studies have pointed to a link between cognitive impairment in diabetics and a higher risk of them suffering the condition.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.

It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.

It’s a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.

It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It’s often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

 Source: NHS

In the paper — published Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism — scientists tracked 9,000 people with type 2 diabetes, including 900 with cognitive impairment, over five years.

A cognitive impairment was defined as struggling to remember something, learn a new skill, concentrate or make a decision. This included cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Participants were around 68 years old, mostly female, and had been suffering from diabetes over a long period.

They were recruited from the trial Researching Cardiovascular Events with a Weekly Incretin in Diabetes (REWIND).

Of the 529 participants with cognitive impairment, 85 suffered a cardiovascular event (16 percent).

A total of 94 (17 percent) also suffered a stroke or died during the study.

For comparison, among the 8,200 who had diabetes but no cognitive impairment 847 (10 percent) suffered a heart problem and 809 (9.8 percent) had a stroke or died. 

Dr Hertzel Gerstein, a medical professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, just outside of Toronto, who was involved in the research, said: ‘Our study found low scores on cognitive tests predicted heart disease in people with diabetes and other heart risk factors.

‘Although the explanation for this remains unclear, proven heart medications should be offered to these patients to reduce their future risk of a heart attack or stroke.’

The scientists also said two common tests used to diagnose cognitive impairment could be used to establish their risk of heart problems.

In the paper the researchers suggested memory problems were ‘associated with a lower capacity for self-care and risk-avoidance’. 

‘This is a cornerstone of diabetes management. This includes… adherence to prescribed medications,’ they said.

But they also suggested the impairment could reflect pre-existing problems triggered by diabetes, such as inflammation.