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Wearable glucose monitor best for those with both diabetes and dementia

Wearable glucose monitors could help people with memory problems, such as those with dementia, better manage their diabetes new research shows.

Having dementia doubles your risk of developing diabetes and while for people who do not have diabetes the risk of developing dementia is about 10 per cent, for people with type 2 diabetes the risk is about 20 per cent.

New research from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) found that the device, which reduces the need for finger-prick tests, was beneficial for this cohort as it didn’t interfere with daily activities and reduced the stress associated with needles.

Lead researcher Dr Katharina Mattishent, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Older people with memory problems can find it more difficult to keep an eye on their blood sugars.

“Older methods of checking blood sugars rely on people doing finger-prick tests.

“The newest technology works by allowing a sensor inserted under the skin on the arm to pick up sugar readings all the time for up to two weeks without having to do finger-prick tests.

“The sensor reads sugar levels and transmits them wirelessly to a display on a portable reader held near the sensor – a bit like swiping a contactless bank card.”

The trial used the Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system and looked at 12 participants who were experiencing memory problems or who had been diagnosed with dementia. The average age of participants was 85.

The devices captured data across 14 days and the research team interviewed the participants and carers to see how they got on with using the devices.

Professor Yoon Loke, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Our study found that older people and their carers overwhelmingly found the device to be acceptable to use and reassuring to be able to check sugar levels more easily.

“One of the carers said that it is very stressful to have to regularly stab her husband’s fingers to get blood samples. He had dementia and diabetes, and couldn’t understand why anyone needed to hurt him with a needle.

“So, you can see how something as simple as using this device could really benefit this vulnerable group and their carers,” he said.

The head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, Dr James Pickett, said this study could keep people with these co-morbidities out of hospital and therefore save the NHS money.

“We’re delighted to see our funded research demonstrating possible benefits of wearable technology for some people with diabetes. Many people with dementia have other health conditions, and managing them all together can be challenging. It’s exciting to see that technology may be part of the answer. The next step is to test the impact in a larger group of people,” he said.

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