A study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health states that diabetes in middle-aged individuals may prove to affect memory and thinking problems later on in life.
The study involved 13,000 adults with an average age of 57 years old when the study was initiated. A number of 1800 of the participants were individuals who suffered of type 2 diabetes in mid-life more than 20 years ago. The volunteers were picked from across 4 states – Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina. The process was studied over the length of nearly 26 years – between 1987 and 2013 – and recently had its conclusions published.
During this amount of time, the 13,000 people who took part were examined five times, studying the subject’s proneness to diabetes, their lifestyle, whether they had health-affecting habits, body mass index, history of heart disease and other health factors. Every time, the researchers would also run tests in order to assess the participants’ cognitive functions and its development over time. The tests included short-term memory, information processing power or verbal learning abilities. The results confirmed that people who had suffered from diabetes showed a 19% greater decline in cognitive skills over the length of 20 years. This effect was not observed in all of the subjects who dealt with diabetes in mid-life, but the calculations were made on average.
The same effect was noticed in people who had gone through prediabetes, but to a lesser extent. The level at which people with diabetes were affected was measured based on blood sugar levels – the higher the level, the greater the risk of cognitive decline – the study explains.
Scientists state that the study only demonstrates a possible link between diabetes and cognitive decline in old age. They have admitted that there is no way to say with certainty that the memory and thinking issues are directly determined by the affliction itself. At the same time however, diabetes has also shown a potential connection to risk of dementia and convinced the researchers to try and discover in what way these effects are triggered. It is believed that it might be related to the way diabetes affects blood vessels, which in turn could determine cognitive changes over time. It is a possibility that the blood sugar damage might even extend to the small vessels in the brain.
This has been the longest study ever performed on this particular subject and has managed to derive some interesting and clear results. Hopefully, they are the first step towards understanding diabetes and its effects both on short and long term.