A nine-year-long study of older diabetics has found that they could experience substantially worse cognitive decline compared to non-diabetics, and that delaying or preventing the development of diabetes could bring advantages in maintaining cognitive function in older adults.
The research, carried out at the University of California San Francisco and published in the Archives of Neurology, involved over 3,000 patients with an average of age of 74.2 who had to complete two different tests on their cognitive abilities over the course of the study. They were monitored to see if diabetes increases the likelihood of cognitive decline, and if poor blood sugar control was linked with a deterioration of cognitive performance.
The results showed that diabetics had substantially lower scores on both tests of cognitive function than non-diabetics once factors such as age, race, gender and education were taken into account. They indicated that for the diabetes patients, higher HbA1c values were linked with lower average cognitive scores, and also that managing to prevent the development of diabetes could help to maintain cognitive function for older patients.
Mechanisms associated with diabetes and cognitive decline include inflammation and microvascular disease, and also because diabetics are at risk of conditions that can impair cognitive functioning, such as depression, stroke, renal disease, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
The research reinforces previous studies, indicating that the severity of diabetes could contribute to faster cognitive ageing.

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