Having type 2 diabetes in middle age can increase the risk of developing cognitive problems such as dementia, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States also revealed that high blood sugar levels in people with diabetes scored worse on tests of brain power later in life.
Dementia study
The study followed a cross-section sample of over 13,000 middle-aged adults for over 20 years. The participants were 57 years old, on average, when the study started.
The participants who had diabetes, which was around 1800, and were mostly cases of type 2 diabetes, suffered a 19 per cent more severe cognitive decline over 20 years, on average, than those without diabetes.
People with uncontrolled diabetes had an even steeper decline, while those without diabetes who also had higher blood sugars experienced a similar loss in brain power.
Improving diabetes control
With the suggestion that better blood sugar control can slow down cognitive decline, researchers are optimistic that middle aged people with type 2 diabetes can make progress now by trying to control their blood sugar levels.
“It gives you an enormous window of opportunity for prevention,” said co-author Dr. A. Richey Sharrett. “I think people dread dementia more than they dread anything in old age.
“The earlier the prevention starts, the greater the benefit may be. This study says you’ve got a 20-year lead time. You can do something about it now, when you’re in your 50s – not later.”

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