A new study sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that Type 2 diabetes among middle-aged patients may increase the risk of developing memory and cognitive problems later in life.
Researchers found that older people diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes have a 19 percent increased risk of memory and overall mental decline over a 20 years period.
Elizabeth Selvin, one of the lead authors of the study, said her team noticed that diabetes patients and people that had a poor control over their diabetes showed increased risks of mental decline. Still, people with poorly controlled diabetes were the highest risk group.
However, researchers said they were only able to find a link between diabetes and increased risk of mental downfall. They weren’t able to determine the real cause of this link – whether the blood sugar levels were responsible for memory and thinking decline.
According to US National Diabetes Statistic Report for 2014, about 29.1 million Americans have diabetes. Among them, 21 million are diagnosed with diabetes, while 8.1 million are undiagnosed. Type 2 diabetes is also associated with hypoglycemic crisis, high blood pressure, high level of bad cholesterol (LDL), heart disease, diabetic retinopathy that leads to blindness, and kidney disease (44% of kidney failure cases had as primary cause diabetes), the report shows.
The new study tries to reveal how midlife diabetes increases risk of developing dementia. Dr Selvin said that dementia was preceded by cognitive decline that lasted between five and seven years. Researchers’ main goal was to find out what diabetes’ role in developing dementia was.
The study used medical infos from more than 13,000 middle-aged diabetes patients coming from different parts of US, such as Mississippi, Maryland or Minnesota. Study participants were all in the 48-67 age range when the study started.
The study lasted for about two decades. During this time, patients were tested for memory and thinking performance three times. Additionally, their blood sugar levels were also measured in the process.
Scientists found out that 60-year-olds diagnosed with diabetes had the same mental decline as healthy 65-year-olds. Also, memory and overall mental decline was higher in prediabetes patients than in people with normal blood sugar levels, while people who had diabetes for a longer time in life developed more thinking and memory related issues.
Dr Selvin also said that the new found link between diabetes and mental decline might be associated to the damage to blood-vessels diabetes produces.
Dr Heather Snyder, who reviewed the study, said that these new findings were consistent with other related medical literature, but not everyone diagnosed with diabetes “went on to develop greater cognitive decline.”