Higher HbA1c levels linked with memory loss

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 30 Aug 2016
Higher HbA1c levels linked with memory loss
Adults who do not control their diabetes could suffer from memory loss in later life, according to new research.

Memory tests over six years showed those who had higher blood sugar levels were more prone to struggle with episodic memory, which is the ability to recall specific events.

The findings also showed that the diabetes patients had a bigger decline in memory function by the end of the study.

Researchers compared 950 older adults who had diabetes with 3,469 elderly people who did not.

Lead study author Colleen Pappas, a researcher at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said: "We believe that the combination of diabetes and high blood sugar increases the chances of a number of health problems.

"Our study brings attention to the possibility that worsening memory may be one of them."

Those who took part were 73 years old, on average, and memory tests were carried out using immediate and delayed word recall, which helped measure any changes to the brain over time.

Participants also had their HbA1c levels measured, and the research team found those with higher HbA1c levels had lower scores on the first memory test and a higher memory decline over time.

Dr Joe Verghese, director of the Montefiore-Einstein Centre for the Aging Brain in New York, said: "Patients with diabetes can experience several brain changes that develop over time such as shrinkage of areas involved in memory and thinking as well as damage to blood vessels supplying the brain.

"Higher blood sugar levels may be detrimental for brain health even in older adults who do not meet formal criteria for diabetes but are in the grey zone."

Limitations of the study included the fact researchers only checked HbA1c levels at the beginning of the study and data on medications which participants had been taking to control their blood sugar were not included.

The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
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