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Dementia risk prompts targeted screening call

Diabetes experts have reiterated calls for targeted diabetes screening in the wake of a

major study showing women with diabetes are at a higher risk of mental decline than those without the condition.

The US authors of the prospective study, based on interviews with 18,999 former nurses, said preventing type 2 diabetes could be crucially important for public health in delaying the onset of dementia.

Commenting on the Harvard University study published online by the BMJ last week, Dr Eugene Hughes, a member of the executive committee of Primary Care Diabetes Europe, said the findings 'absolutely emphasised' the need for targeted screening.

Calls surfaced last month following a study that suggested targeting patients aged 50 and over with a body mass index of 27 or above could detect a third of the one million undiagnosed type 2 diabetics in the UK.

The US researchers interviewed women aged between 70 and 81 and found those with type 2 diabetes had around 30 per cent greater risk of poor cognitive function than women without diabetes.

Risk of poor cognition was particularly high for women who had had diabetes for more than 15 years ­ some 50 per cent higher than for women without diabetes.

Women with diabetes who were on oral hypoglycaemic drugs performed similarly to women without diabetes, while women not using any medication were at the greatest risk of poor performance in memory and other tests.

Professor Giancarlo Logro-scino, associate professor of neuroepidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the report, said: 'As dementia may be most effectively delayed in its initial stages, identifying diabetes as a modifiable risk factor for early cognitive decline could be of major public health importance.'

Dr Hughes, a GP in the Isle of Wight, said that although experts agreed targeted national screening should be introduced, the Government was 'dragging its feet' because it was 'scared' of the financial consequences of identifying up to a million new cases.

By Cato Pedder

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