NORFOLK, Va. - The World Health Organization recently reported the number of people with dementia will triple in the next 30 years.
"There are several reasons for the increase," said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light. "Obesity numbers are increasing and contributing to poor overall health. Diabetes, high blood pressure and vascular disease are all precursors to dementia."
Dr. Light said studies have shown diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
"Researchers have found a gene known as APOE4 that increases dementia in certain people," he explained. "A defect in this gene seems to interfere with the brain’s ability to use insulin, possibly causing the cells to starve and die. This is sometimes referred to as Type 3 diabetes."
He continued, "There are many similarities in the brains of people with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease," he said. "However, diabetes is only a risk factor. Some people with diabetes may develop dementia, but many will not."
Dr. Light said the risk of dementia can be reduced by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding unhealthy amounts of alcohol, and maintaining an ideal weight. He stressed maintaining a healthy blood pressure and low cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
He further explained that dementia is more common in the older population, and people are now living longer. He also said doctors are better at diagnosing dementia early.