Diabetes and Parkinson's

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2017

A number of research studies have looked at the connection between Parkinson’s disease (PD) and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which the blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high. Insulin is the hormone in the body that helps move glucose into the cells for energy.

What is the connection?

In people with type 2 diabetes, the body does not use insulin well. This is also known as insulin resistance. Over time, the high levels of glucose in the blood cause serious problems, damaging eyes, kidneys, and nerves, and increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and loss of limbs due to amputation.1

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Studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing PD. Type 2 diabetes also increases the risk of a person developing Alzheimer’s disease.2,3

Prevalence in people with PD

Due to the increased risk of developing PD among people with diabetes, it is no surprise that the prevalence of diabetes is higher among people with PD than in non-PD people. It is estimated that between 8-30 percent of people with PD have diabetes.

In addition, 50-80 percent of people with PD have abnormal glucose tolerance tests. Glucose tolerance tests measure the body’s ability to use glucose (sugar). Abnormal results may indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes, a condition that indicates a person is at risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes. Diabetes seems to accelerate the progression of both motor and non-motor symptoms of PD.4,5

Reducing your risk

There are ways to lower the risk of developing diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy, and getting regular physical exercise. These healthy lifestyle activities are also important for people with PD to maintain their health and manage their symptoms from PD.6