Studies indicate that individuals with diabetes have a 65% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those without diabetes. While research suggests a significant association between diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, there is ongoing debate within the medical community about labeling Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes. Additional research is necessary to firmly establish this classification.

Despite this ongoing debate, numerous studies substantiate the diabetes-Alzheimer’s link. Hence, individuals should proactively adopt preventive measures. This article explores the connection between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, symptoms, and strategies for preventing and managing this complex condition.

Key Findings

  • While some experts refer to individuals diagnosed with both diabetes and Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes due to the proposed link between insulin resistance or deficiency in the brain and the development of Alzheimer’s, this classification is not officially recognized by medical associations.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which disrupt normal cellular function and communication in the brain, leading to cognitive decline.
  • Insulin resistance and dysregulation in the brain can lead to the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles, contributing to Alzheimer’s progression.
  • The APOE4 gene disrupts brain insulin processing, raising type 3 diabetes risk.
  • Risk factors such as insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular risk factors, inflammation, genetics, and lifestyle habits contribute to the development of both Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.
  • Symptoms of type 3 diabetes overlap with early dementia symptoms, emphasizing the importance of proactive prevention strategies, including lifestyle interventions, dietary modifications, regular physical activity, and stress management techniques, to mitigate the risk and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Understanding Type 3 Diabetes

There are intriguing notions that metabolic dysfunction, particularly insulin dysregulation, may play a role in the development and progression of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s.

What is Type 3 Diabetes?

The term “type 3 diabetes” has been used by some health professionals to describe people who have type 2 diabetes and also receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. It refers to the proposed link between insulin resistance or deficiency in the brain and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s not officially recognized as a distinct type of diabetes by medical associations like the American Diabetes Association.

How is Diabetes Linked to Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia, affecting millions of Americans, with an estimated 5.8 million individuals living with the condition in 2020. This progressive neurological disorder is characterized by difficulties with memory, language, decision-making, and other cognitive functions, impacting their ability to perform everyday tasks.

The primary hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease are:

  • Beta-Amyloid Plaques: These are abnormal clumps of beta-amyloid protein that accumulate between nerve cells in the brain. These plaques disrupt cell function and communication and are a characteristic feature of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles: These are twisted fibers of a protein called tau that build up inside nerve cells. These tangles interfere with cell function and are associated with cell death in the brain.

These two features are believed to contribute to the progressive loss of memory and cognitive function seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

However, numerous studies indicate a potential connection between type 2 diabetes mellitus and Alzheimer’s disease, particularly regarding impaired insulin signaling and its impact on amyloid and tau proteins. Below, we’ll explore how each factor may influence the other.

1. Insulin Resistance and ?-Amyloid

Amyloid proteins regulate the function of synapses, which are the connections between nerve cells in the brain. They help maintain normal synaptic activity, which is essential for proper brain function, including learning and memory.

In neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, amyloid proteins such as beta-amyloid can aggregate and form plaques in the brain. These plaques are believed to contribute to the progression of the disease by disrupting normal cellular function, causing inflammation, and ultimately leading to the death of nerve cells.

Insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) is a key player in breaking down beta-amyloid, insulin, and other substances. Because it can degrade both insulin and beta-amyloid, it’s believed to connect insulin problems with Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s hypothesized that with insulin resistance in the brain, IDE may prioritize breaking down insulin over beta-amyloid, leading to its toxic accumulation. This imbalance in insulin metabolism in the nervous system potentially exacerbates cognitive decline.

2. Insulin Resistance and Tau Protein

In its normal state, tau protein helps stabilize structures called microtubules inside cells and regulates how cells communicate with each other. Tau protein undergoes phosphorylation (a chemical modification) as part of its normal regulatory processes within cells.

Certain enzymes are involved in tau phosphorylation, and these enzymes are regulated by insulin. Studies suggest that when insulin signaling in the brain is impaired, it can lead to the overactivity of the enzymes, causing tau protein to become hyperphosphorylated. This hyperphosphorylation is linked to the formation of twisted fibers and tangles inside brain cells, contributing to Alzheimer’s progression.

However, more research is necessary to completely understand the common molecular and biological mechanisms between Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

What Causes Type 3 Diabetes?

The exact causes of type 3 diabetes involve complex interactions between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, as well as the interplay between insulin signaling and the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease.

To understand how you get type 3 diabetes, here’s what the research says:

1. Apolipoprotein E (APOE4) Gene

APOE4 stands as the strongest gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk. Approximately 25% of individuals carry one copy of APOE4, while 2-3% carry two copies. Health experts at the Mayo Clinic discovered that APOE4, detected in over half of Alzheimer’s cases, disrupts the brain’s insulin processing.

The researchers looked at what happens inside brain cells and discovered that a certain protein called APOE4, generated by the gene, sticks more strongly to insulin receptors on the surface of brain cells compared to another protein called APOE3. This results in APOE4 pushing out APOE3 and blocking the receptor.

When the receptor is blocked, the APOE4 protein starts to clump together. This makes it difficult for brain cells to get the nutrients they need from insulin signals, leading to problems with brain function.

2. Metabolic Syndrome

Research in the past few years has connected key aspects of metabolic syndrome, like belly fat, metabolic issues, and insulin resistance, with cognitive impairment and cerebral atrophy (loss of brain cells and the shrinking of brain tissue).

Insulin resistance, in particular, is closely linked with lower glucose metabolism in certain brain areas in people with type 2 diabetes. Patients with Alzheimer’s often experience a 25% reduction in their brain’s ability to use glucose efficiently, especially in areas important for memory, like the hippocampus.

Autopsy studies comparing Alzheimer’s patients to others show lower levels of glucose transporters in areas important for memory and thinking.

3. Oxidative stress

Oxidative damage happens when there’s an imbalance in highly reactive oxygen and nitrogen molecules. Both oxidative stress and insulin resistance can influence each other, creating a complex relationship. While oxidative stress can lead to insulin resistance by disrupting insulin signaling pathways and promoting inflammation, insulin resistance can also contribute to oxidative stress by increasing the production of reactive oxygen species and impairing antioxidant defenses.

In conditions of insulin resistance, there’s an increase in these harmful molecules in the blood, as well as in tissues like fat, brain, muscle, and liver. The brain is especially vulnerable to oxidative stress. Despite making up less than 2% of total body weight, the brain uses over 20% of the body’s oxygen supply, making it highly susceptible to oxidative stress damage.

While some believe that beta-amyloid comes before oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s, many studies suggest that oxidative stress could actually be an early event, leading to the accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau proteins. This suggests that oxidative stress and insulin resistance may independently contribute to the buildup of these harmful proteins.

4. Islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP)

Islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP), also known as amylin, is a hormone produced in the pancreas alongside insulin. It helps regulate blood sugar levels by signaling satiety, slowing down stomach emptying, and inhibiting the release of glucagon.

In conditions like obesity or insulin resistance, levels of amylin, like insulin, are higher than normal. In Alzheimer’s disease, amylin is found in the brain along with beta-amyloid plaques. Some studies suggest that high levels of amylin in the brain could contribute to the formation of amyloid plaques and cause damage to neurons, similar to what happens in the pancreas in type 2 diabetes.

5. Neuroinflammation

Neuroinflammation, which is inflammation in the brain, happens early in Alzheimer’s disease. Many studies suggest that neuroinflammation is the main reason for insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) resistance in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

In conditions like type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity, insulin resistance in the body leads to the production of harmful fats, which can cross into the brain, causing inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, which is then linked to the primary hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.

Risk Factors of Type 3 Diabetes

Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes share several risk factors, which then contribute to type 3 diabetes, often referred to as “brain diabetes” or “diabetes of the brain.” These include:

  • Insulin Resistance: Both Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes involve insulin resistance, where the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Similarly, research suggests, as enumerated earlier, that insulin resistance in the brain may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • High Blood Sugar Levels: Chronic high blood sugar levels, characteristic of diabetes, may also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Elevated glucose levels can lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, and damage to blood vessels, which can affect brain health.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): High blood pressure, often dubbed the “silent killer” due to its lack of obvious symptoms, frequently goes unnoticed by individuals. A 2013 survey revealed that less than half of those at risk for heart disease or type 2 diabetes discussed biomarkers, such as blood pressure, with their healthcare providers.

At the same time, hypertension has also been linked to a greater likelihood of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. However, these connections are complicated and not fully understood.

  • Obesity: Obesity is a significant risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Excess body weight, particularly visceral fat, is associated with insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, which can increase the risk of both conditions.
  • Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Conditions such as high cholesterol and heart disease are common risk factors for both Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. These cardiovascular risk factors can impair blood flow to the brain, leading to cognitive decline and increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is implicated in the development and progression of both Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. Neuroinflammation can lead to the accumulation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, while systemic inflammation can contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • Genetics: Certain genetic factors predispose individuals to both Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption, increase the risk of both Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Type 3 Diabetes Symptoms

So, what are the symptoms of type 3 diabetes? The signs are essentially the same as those of early dementia, these include:

  • Forgetting recent events or things
  • Misplacing or losing items
  • Getting disoriented or lost while walking or driving
  • Experiencing confusion, even in familiar surroundings
  • Losing track of time
  • Facing challenges in problem-solving or decision-making
  • Struggling to follow conversations or find the right words
  • Having difficulty with familiar tasks
  • Misjudging distances visually

Additionally, changes in mood and behavior may manifest prior to the onset of memory issues. These changes include:

  • Feeling anxious, sad, or frustrated due to memory issues
  • Experiencing changes in personality
  • Displaying inappropriate behavior
  • Withdrawing from work or social engagements
  • Showing reduced interest in others’ emotions

Prevention and Management Strategies for Type 3 Diabetes

A doctor showing the glucometer to the patient.

There are proactive approaches to mitigate the risk and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. A range of lifestyle interventions, dietary modifications, and potential pharmaceutical interventions are available aimed at preserving cognitive function and reducing neurodegenerative risk.

How is Type 3 Diabetes Diagnosed?

While there isn’t a specific test designed for type 3 diabetes, healthcare providers will usually search for indications of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is typically diagnosed through a combination of the following:

  • Medical History: During the assessment, the provider will review the individual’s medical history, including psychiatric and cognitive changes, medications, and family history of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • Physical Exam and Diagnostic Tests: Information gathered from the physical exam and lab tests can help identify potential health issues that may cause dementia symptoms. The physician will likely:
    • Inquire about diet, nutrition, and alcohol consumption.
    • Review all medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
    • Check vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.
    • Conduct a physical examination, including listening to the heart and lungs.
    • Perform additional assessments to evaluate overall health.
    • Collect blood or urine samples for laboratory testing.

Pro Tip

Prepare your answer to the following questions:

  1. What symptoms have you observed?
  2. When did these symptoms start?
  3. How frequently do they occur?
  4. Have they shown any signs of worsening?

By being communicative, you can navigate the physical exam and diagnostic testing process for Alzheimer’s disease more effectively.

  • Neurological Exam: This evaluation involves checking for signs of conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, and fluid accumulation in the brain, which can affect memory and cognition. The physician will examine the following:
    • reflex responses
    • motor coordination, including muscle tone and strength
    • ocular movements
    • verbal communication
    • sensory perception
  • Cognitive, Functional, and Behavioral Tests: These tests are used to assess memory, cognition, problem-solving skills, and behavioral changes. They vary in length and complexity, with some providing quick evaluations while others are more thorough and administered by neuropsychologists. Examples of these tests include:
    • Ascertain Dementia 8 (AD8)
    • Functional Activities Questionnaire (FAQ)
    • Mini-Cog, Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE)
    • Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)
    • Neuropsychiatric Inventory Questionnaire (NPI-Q)
  • Computerized Cognitive Tests and Devices: Computerized assessments gauge an individual’s performance across various cognitive and functional tasks, particularly useful in clinical settings or randomized clinical trials where traditional lengthy assessments may not be feasible.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several digital cognitive testing tools for marketing, including:

    • Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM)
    • Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB Mobile®)
    • CognICA
    • Cognigram
    • Cognivue
    • Cognision
  • Depression Screen and Mood Assessment: The physician will also examine the individual’s overall sense of well-being to identify signs of depression or other mood disorders. These conditions can lead to memory issues, loss of interest in life, and other symptoms that may overlap with dementia.
  • Brain Imaging: This involves structural imaging through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT), or Positron Emission Tomography (PET). These tests primarily aim to exclude other conditions with similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s but necessitate different treatments. Structural imaging can identify tumors, signs of strokes, severe head trauma-related damage, or fluid accumulation in the brain.
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid (Csf) Tests: CSF is a transparent liquid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. Physicians can collect CSF through a minimally invasive procedure called a lumbar puncture or spinal tap. Examples of FDA-approved CSF tests include Lumipulse and Elecsys.

Just like Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes is also diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. The diagnosis is based on the following criteria:

  • Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG): A blood test measures your fasting blood sugar level after an overnight fast. A fasting blood sugar level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher on two separate occasions indicates diabetes.
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): Before the test, fasting overnight is necessary. Following the fasting period, blood sugar levels are measured, and then a glucose-containing liquid is consumed. Blood samples are taken one and two hours later to monitor changes. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher after two hours indicates diabetes, while a level of 140 to 199 mg/dL suggests prediabetes.
  • Hemoglobin A1c Test: This blood test measures your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. An A1c level of 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes.

If you’re already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to treat it immediately to minimize bodily damage, including the brain, and to slow Alzheimer’s or dementia progression.

What are the Treatment Plans for Type 3 Diabetes?

As type 3 diabetes is not formally recognized, it lacks an official diagnosis. Therefore, there are no treatments for type 3 diabetes yet. So, how do you treat type 3 diabetes?

Generally, if diagnosed with both type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s, your physician may recommend a diabetes treatment plan and prescribe medications to address Alzheimer’s cognitive symptoms.

Standard treatments for type 2 diabetes typically include:

  • Lifestyle Modifications: This includes adopting a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and weight management to help control blood sugar levels.
  • Oral Medications: Several classes of medications are available to lower blood sugar levels, such as:
  • Insulin Therapy: In some cases, insulin therapy may be necessary to help control blood sugar levels, especially if oral medications are ineffective. This includes:
  • Blood Sugar Monitoring: Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is important to track treatment effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.

As for Alzheimer’s, finding effective treatments has been challenging. While there are various prescription medications to address Alzheimer’s symptoms, their effectiveness remains uncertain.

Many individuals with Alzheimer’s have reduced levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Cholinesterase inhibitors, such as Aricept (donepezil), Razadyne (galantamine), or Exelon (rivastigmine), may help by maintaining acetylcholine levels in the brain.

Namenda (memantine), which acts as an NMDA-receptor antagonist, has shown some ability to slow down the progression of the disease and is often prescribed alongside a cholinesterase inhibitor.

Research indicates that neuropsychiatric symptoms like depression and agitation are significantly linked to Alzheimer’s disease, impacting patients’ quality of life. Therefore, managing depression in Alzheimer’s patients is crucial. Available medications for this purpose include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): They work by increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a key role in regulating mood. SSRIs are often preferred as a first-line treatment for depression and anxiety due to their relatively favorable side effect profile and effectiveness in many patients.Examples of SSRIs include:
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): They work by increasing the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine. SNRIs are often considered when SSRIs alone are not effective in managing symptoms or when individuals also experience physical symptoms such as chronic pain or fatigue.Examples of SNRIs include:
  • Atypical Antidepressants: These are a diverse group of medications used to treat depression when other antidepressants are ineffective or not well-tolerated. Unlike SSRIs and SNRIs, which primarily target serotonin and norepinephrine, atypical antidepressants may affect different neurotransmitters or have unique mechanisms of action.Examples of atypical antidepressants include:

Typically, Alzheimer’s medications are initially trialed for eight weeks, after which their effectiveness is assessed to determine any benefits.

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How to Prevent Type 3 Diabetes?

Given the lack of treatments for type 3 diabetes, individuals need to prioritize how to avoid type 3 diabetes. Measures that can help prevent both diabetes and Alzheimer’s, such as adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity, are particularly relevant.

Here’s how you can do it:

Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies

To lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a study recommended following the four pillars of Alzheimer’s prevention. These pillars include:

Pillar 1: Diet and Supplements

The US Government reports that roughly 75% of Americans don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables, while many exceed recommended levels of sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and calories.

Research suggests that adopting a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and olive oil can slow or reverse memory loss and cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, has shown promising results in reducing Alzheimer’s-related brain abnormalities and maintaining cognitive function.

Similarly, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which combines elements of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, has been associated with significant improvements in cognitive aging.

The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (AARPF) nutrition plan shares similarities with the Mediterranean and MIND diets, emphasizing:

  • Vegetarian foods: These include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and soy, which can enhance focus and productivity. Wild-caught salmon is the only recommended animal protein for its brain-friendly omega-3 fats, advised to be consumed two to three times a week.
  • Juicing: Fresh juices provide essential vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and phytonutrients vital for brain health.
  • Supplements: High-potency multivitamins and multi-mineral supplements containing folic acid are recommended. Additionally, specific memory supplements like omega-3 oils, phosphatidyl-serine, coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, huperzine-A, and resveratrol are also advised.
Pillar 2: Physical and Mental Exercise

Both physical and mental exercise are important in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, promotes the growth of new brain cells, and enhances brain compounds like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Current recommendations advise 150 minutes of weekly cardio exercise and strength training sessions. Even mild exercise yields immediate benefits, such as improved brain and memory function. Those already in good physical shape should diversify and intensify their workouts. Engaging in enjoyable activities like tennis, swimming, or group fitness classes can enhance overall fitness.

Additionally, keeping the mind active is vital for Alzheimer’s prevention. Reading, engaging in brain-aerobic activities like puzzles or creative endeavors, and listening to music stimulate and challenge the brain, contributing to mental conditioning alongside physical fitness.

Pillar 3: Yoga/Meditation

Chronic stress significantly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by triggering unhealthy gene expression and inflammation. Research spanning over a decade highlights the brain-boosting benefits of a 12-minute yoga/meditation technique known as Kirtan Kriya (KK).

KK involves chanting a mantra while performing specific finger movements called mudras. Modern scientific studies have demonstrated that KK reduces stress levels and enhances blood flow to key brain areas associated with memory and cognitive function. This helps to balance stress, improve emotional control, and enhance memory. Long-term practitioners of KK have shown larger brain sizes, indicating a potential anti-aging effect.

Pillar 4: Psychological Well-Being

Meditation not only contributes to psychological well-being by fostering self-acceptance, confidence, and social engagement but also aids in reducing the risk of cognitive decline, cholesterol levels, and inflammation.

The concept of Purpose in Life, which highlights the belief in life’s meaning and purpose, has emerged in neuroscience as a factor in promoting overall physiological health, extending beyond Alzheimer’s treatment to conditions like spinal cord injuries and cardiovascular issues. Positive emotions, particularly love and compassion, counteract stress responses and support brain health, while spirituality, closely linked to cognitive health, offers the potential to slow Alzheimer’s progression.

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Strategies

Here are some established approaches for preventing type 2 diabetes:

  • Balanced Diet: Focus on consuming whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Limit intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, and refined carbohydrates.
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This can include aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, as well as strength training exercises.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Aim to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight by balancing calorie intake with physical activity. Losing even a small amount of weight (5% to 10% of your body weight) can help restore insulin sensitivity and significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly, especially if you have a family history of diabetes or other risk factors. Early detection and management of prediabetes can prevent progression to type 2 diabetes.
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption: Drink alcohol in moderation, as excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Quit Smoking: If you smoke, quitting can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health complications. In fact, individuals who smoke cigarettes have a 30%-40% higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes compared to non-smokers.
  • Manage Stress: Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or spending time on hobbies and activities you enjoy to help manage stress levels, which can contribute to diabetes risk.

By incorporating these healthy habits into your daily routine, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improve overall health and well-being.


Type 3 diabetes, while not an officially distinct type of diabetes, underscores the close link between metabolic issues and brain health. This term is often used to describe individuals diagnosed with both type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Given the growing evidence connecting insulin resistance and dysregulation to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases, individuals must be mindful of their health choices. Focusing on holistic strategies can effectively address both metabolic symptoms and neurological risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of diabetes are there?

There are primarily three main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

What are the three types of diabetes?

The three types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes: An autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This results in little to no insulin production, leading to high blood sugar levels.
  • Type 2 diabetes: The most common form of diabetes. It is characterized by insulin resistance, where the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
  • Gestational diabetes: Characterized by high blood sugar levels that begin or are first recognized during pregnancy. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet the increased needs during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of complications for both the mother and baby during pregnancy and delivery. While it usually resolves after childbirth, women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Which type of diabetes requires insulin?

In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Since insulin is necessary for the body to use glucose for energy, people with type 1 diabetes require insulin therapy to survive.

What are the classifications of Type 3 diabetes?

Another classification of diabetes that most people often take as another type of type 3 diabetes is type 3c diabetes. Despite having a similar name, this is a separate condition. Type 3c diabetes is a distinct form of diabetes that is caused by damage to the pancreas, often as a result of conditions such as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, or cystic fibrosis. This damage affects the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin, leading to diabetes. It accounts for 5% of diabetics in the US. It’s also known as Pancreatogenic Diabetes and is classified by the American Diabetes Association and the World Health Organization.

Why is Alzheimer’s called type 3 diabetes?

The term “Type 3 diabetes” is sometimes used to refer to Alzheimer’s disease due to growing evidence suggesting a potential link between insulin resistance and cognitive decline. This concept proposes that Alzheimer’s disease shares similarities with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, hence the designation “Type 3.”

Is there information about the life expectancy of type 3 diabetes?

Since “type 3 diabetes” is not yet widely recognized as a formal medical term, then specific data on the life expectancy of individuals with type 3 diabetes may not be readily available.

As per the Alzheimer’s Association, individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s typically have an average life expectancy of approximately 4 to 8 years. However, there are cases where individuals with Alzheimer’s can survive for as long as 20 years post-diagnosis.

Additionally, researchers have estimated that each additional decade of living with type 2 diabetes may reduce life expectancy by approximately 3.5 years compared to individuals without diabetes. For instance, among 50-year-olds, those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 30 are estimated to have a life expectancy that is 14 years shorter. Similarly, individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 50 may have a life expectancy shortened by 6 years compared to those without the condition.

Can type 3 diabetes kill you?

Type 3 diabetes is not directly fatal. However, Alzheimer’s disease itself can lead to complications that may indirectly affect health and longevity. It’s the 7th leading cause of death in the US, with 120,122 reported deaths as of 2022. In its advanced stages, significant deterioration in brain function may lead to dehydration, malnutrition, or infection. These complications can ultimately lead to mortality.

Can type 3 diabetes be reversed?

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are irreversible conditions. While interventions may help slow down the progression and enhance quality of life, these conditions typically worsen over time.

Can type 3 diabetes be cured?

While there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, treatments exist to manage symptoms and potentially slow disease progression. In addition, proper management of diabetes through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical care can help reduce the risk of complications and improve overall health outcomes.

What is type 4 diabetes?

Type 4 diabetes, much like type 3 diabetes, lacks official recognition as a distinct diabetes classification and does not currently have formal diagnostic criteria. It is a proposed term used to describe diabetes resulting from insulin resistance in elderly individuals who are not overweight or obese. A study conducted in 2015 with mice revealed an association between this condition, dubbed type 4 diabetes, and an abundance of regulatory T cells, a type of immune cell. Researchers speculate that this connection may be related to the aging process. However, further studies involving human subjects are necessary to validate this hypothesis. Experts suggest that type 4 diabetes may be significantly underdiagnosed since it affects older individuals who are not overweight or obese.


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