We know that Hispanic/Latino populations have higher rates of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and greater risk for related complications compared with non-Latino Whites. We also know that with aging, physical disability increases. This can both result from and be made worse by long-term diseases, such as T2D. Complications related to diabetes include neuropathy and vision loss. Both can lead to physical disability. In an aging population, dementia is also linked to disability and T2D. Dementia has major impacts on quality of life for people with T2D and their families.
Does type 2 diabetes increase dementia risk?
Researchers recently studied whether T2D in Hispanic/Latinos increases the risk of dementia and disability. To do this, they followed a population of Mexican Americans with diabetes to see what happened over 20 years. They found that having T2D is linked to higher risk of dementia and disability with increasing age. This risk was greater for participants with T2D who had moved to the United States before age 20 or after age 50.
The reasons for this are unclear, but we already know that lower education increases the risk of later cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life.
Little formal education and migration later in life raise risk
Migrants from Mexico who arrive in the U.S. later in life tend to have less formal education . This may contribute to greater dementia risk. Additionally, people migrating before age 20 may receive lower-quality education. Another factor may be cultural integration. Late-life migrants have more difficulty adapting to a new language and culture, which can increase the risk of dementia. Also, migrants who arrive before age 20 are more likely to adopt U.S.-style diet and activity habits. This may harm their health in older age.
There are clearly complex relationships between T2D, dementia, and disability among U.S.-born and foreign-born Mexican Americans over time. More research is needed to explore these relationships further.