Insulin Resistance Puts Women More at Risk of Alzheimer's Than Men

Caregiver, patient expert

For many reasons, some identified and others still a mystery, women seem to be more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men are. A recent study, led by Dr. Laura Ekblad at Finland's University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, has discovered one physical issue that could be added to the list of Alzheimer's risks for women: insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance, which is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes, was shown in tests to influence verbal fluency in women more than men. Verbal fluency is one of many skills tested when looking for symptoms of cognitive issues that often lead to Alzheimer’s disease. According to the study's authors, it is common to test verbal fluency when evaluating different executive functions and semantic memory, as well.

Diabetes as an Alzheimer’s riskAlzheimer’s disease is labeled by some scientists as "type 3 diabetes." Not all researchers are ready to go that far; After all, while insulin appears to be a factor in Alzheimer’s, it’s just one of many.** Nevertheless, the number of people who develop type 2 diabetes and the number who develop Alzheimer’s are both rising.**

Most scientists agree that diabetes is, at the very least, an independent risk factor for Alzheimer’s. As with many studies on cognitive decline, Dr. Ekblad's study has, at its core, the idea that lifestyle can make a difference in people’s mental and physical well-being. Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight throughout life is ideal. If that hasn’t been part of your history, it’s not too late to work with your doctor on that goal.

If you’ve already developed type 2 diabetes, you can, with the help of your doctor, most likely control the disease, or even reverse it. By doing so, you may be saving yourself from a long, cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s -- which is an impressive payoff for diligent self-care.

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Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver having spent over two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a longtime newspaper  columnist and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” as well as a contributor to several additional books on caregiving and dementia. Her websites can be accessed at Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder_ and on Facebook _Minding Our Elders.