The devastative impact of diabetes on cognitive ability is already known, but it doesn't end there. A recent study finds that individuals who develop diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age may be at a higher risk of brain damage compared to ones free of the ailment or who develop them later in life; thinking and memory skills may be severely compromised in individuals with progressing age.
The study result underlines the importance of encouraging patients to aggressively manage their diabetes.
AdvertisementThe research team lead by Rosebud O. Roberts of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN assessed 1,437 individuals with an average age of 80 for their thinking and memory skills. Middle age was defined as age 40 to 64. Those with either mild cognitive impairment and/ or thinking problems were included in the study. Their medical records were searched in depth to trace the history of diabetes and hypertension.
Researchers then performed brain scans in the participants so as to look for markers of brain damage that harbinger dementia, severe loss of mental abilities.
What follows are the relevant shocking observations:
• Compared with the healthy ones (i.e. those without diabetes) people who developed diabetes in middle age had a 2.9% smaller total brain volume; the volume in the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory, was smaller by 4%. Reduced brain volumes impair cognition.
• These people were twice more likely to have memory and thinking problems than those without diabetes.
• Ones who developed high blood pressure in middle age were twice at risk of having areas of brain damage than the normotensive (normal blood pressure) ones.
• Data on people who developed the relevant ailments in old age showed that- people who developed high blood pressure in old age did not suffer any adverse impacts on the brain while the case was different for diabetes! This meant diabetes would invariably affect the brain irrespective of the age of onset of the ailment.
"Overall, our findings suggest that the effects of these diseases on the brain take decades to develop and show up as brain damage and lead to symptoms that affect their memory and other thinking skills. In particular, diabetes has adverse effects regardless of the age at which diabetes develops," says Robert.
Dementia is, unfortunately, incurable; prevention is all that can be done. "In the absence of a cure for dementia, our findings emphasize the importance of prevention and control of type 2 diabetes as a means to reducing the burden of dementia due to Alzheimer's or vascular dementia," adds Dr. Roberts.
Reference: American Academy of Neurology