Midlife diabetes linked to cognitive decline later

For individuals who have diabetes in their midlife years, the chances of developing cognitive problems later in life are greater than for non-diabetic individuals of the same age, according to a new study.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that diabetes can "age" the mind five years faster than normal, which can result in memory impairment and loss of function severe enough to cause dementia or compromised daily functioning.

Patients who have poorly controlled diabetes, moreover, saw 19 percent more mental decline.

"There is a substantial cognitive decline associated with diabetes, pre-diabetes and poor glucose control in people with diabetes," said Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, lead study author. "And we know how to prevent or delay the diabetes associated with this decline."

Prevention is the goal

While changes to diet and exercise can help control diabetes, preventing the disease is the preferred goal, Selvin said.

"If we can do a better job at preventing diabetes and controlling diabetes, we can prevent the progression to dementia for many people," Selvin said. "Even delaying dementia by a few years could have a huge impact on the population, from quality of life to health care costs."

Losing five to 10 percent of body weight can prevent blood sugar problems, Selvin said, which is important for people in their middle-age years.

"The lesson is that to have a healthy brain when you're 70, you need to eat right and exercise when you're 50," Selvin said.

Source: John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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