People with type 2 diabetes experienced significant decline in cognitive function within a two-year period, according to a new study.
These findings were concluded by researchers at Harvard Medical School, led by Dr Vera Novak, Associate Professor of Neurology.
Novak’s team investigated 65 older people, half of which who had type 2 diabetes. At the beginning of the study, cognitive ability was tested using MRI scans, blood tests and cognitive challenges.
During the two-year study, changes in the flexibility of blood vessels were measured. While these remained more or less the same for non-diabetic patients, the flexibility declined among those with type 2 diabetes.
These blood vessels became less responsive, which led to changes in different parts of the brains of patients with diabetes.
After two years, the scores on cognitive tests were lower among diabetic patients compared to baseline. The rates of blood flow to the brain were also lower, with severe blood flow decline corresponding to greater decline on tests of mental skills.
Higher HbA1c levels were attributed to this heightened increase in vasoconstriction among those in the type 2 diabetes group. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels led to increased inflammation in the people with diabetes, impairing cognitive function.
The findings highlight the necessity of maintaining good control of blood glucose levels if you have diabetes, as this can prevent cells being damaged and inflammation being triggered.
Novak’s team are now are looking to assess if the health of blood vessels can be addressed in diabetic patients and if therapies can improve brain function among those with diabetes.

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