By Mark Waghorn via SWNS
People with diabetes and cardiovascular disease are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's, warns new research.
Healthier lifestyles or taking statins that destroy bad cholesterol may dramatically reduce the risk.
Dementia cases worldwide will triple to more than 150 million by 2050. With no cure in sight, there is an increasing focus on preventative behaviors.
Type 2 diabetes is the form related to obesity - usually caused by consuming too much fat and sugar and not getting enough exercise.
It is also linked to cardiometabolic diseases such as hardening of the arteries, heart failure, irregular heartbeats and stroke.
Lead author Abigail Dove, a neurobiology student at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, said: "Few studies have examined how the risk of dementia is affected by having more than one of these diseases simultaneously, so that is what we wanted to examine."
The findings are based on 2,500 healthy over 60s in Sweden who were tracked for 12 years. Medical examinations and cognitive tests monitored changes in brainpower.
The presence of more than one cardiometabolic disease doubled the risk of mental impairment.
It accelerated the speed of full-blown dementia by two years - with magnitude increasing with a greater number of conditions.
Ms. Dove said: "In our study, the combinations of diabetes/heart disease and diabetes/heart disease/stroke were the most damaging to cognitive function."
Participants who had just one cardiometabolic disease did not display a significantly higher risk of dementia.
She added: "This is good news. The study shows the risk only increases once someone has at least two of the diseases.
"So it is possible dementia can be averted by preventing the development of a second disease."
The connection was stronger among those under the age of 78, reports the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.
Ms. Dove added: "We should therefore focus on cardiometabolic disease prevention already in middle age since the risk of cognitive failure and dementia appears higher among those who develop a cardiometabolic disease earlier in life."
Her team next hope to identify the mechanism fuelling the phenomenon by examining genetic factors and using brain scans.
Earlier this year a study of 5,000 people in the US followed for 25 years found having diabetes at 55 raised dementia risk fourfold.
Many studies have found elderly people or those with dementia often have more than
one chronic health condition.
These include high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, depression and chronic lung disease (COPD).
But few have looked at whether developing these conditions earlier on in life puts people at risk of dementia.
Now evidence is mounting that treating chronic health conditions early in life could help keep dementia at bay.
It is estimated that more than 7 million people ages 65 or older had dementia in the US in 2020.
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