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Neurol Res. 2004 Jul;26(5):567-72.

The relationships between atherosclerosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 6N5.


Type 2 diabetes in the elderly is associated with increased incidence of vascular disease, particularly, atherosclerosis of large blood vessels. Together with other risk factors such as dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis increases the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. Most studies that have examined the impact of type 2 diabetes and other heart disease risk factors on cognitive functions do not provide evidence that heart disease risk factors (with the possible exception of triglycerides) further increase the likelihood of observing cognitive deficits in diabetic patients. However, none of these studies used imaging techniques to evaluate atherosclerosis or evidence of cerebrovascular disease, such as infarctions. The few studies that have included brain imaging suggest that evidence of cerebrovascular disease further increases the risk for dementia in diabetic patients. The results of longitudinal studies suggest that diabetes is an independent risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. The pattern of neuropsychological performance observed in type 2 diabetic patients appears to be the result of multiple interacting processes developing over time. In addition to the detrimental effects of protracted impaired glucose regulation on the central nervous system, type 2 diabetes pathology also encompasses the detrimental effects of associated complications such as cerebrovascular disease, which is likely the main cause of the observed processing speed/reaction time decrements.

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