Midlife Diabetes Linked to Memory Problems Later On?

About 100 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with diabetes, and medical experts say that the aging population will add to the total number of those with this serious metabolic disorder. New research is uncovering the effects of diabetes and how it causes other health problems. A recent study on diabetes and memory suggests the effects of the disease can be far-ranging.

Diabetes Effects on Memory

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in December of 2014 is providing more information on the effects of diabetes on the brain over time. The study began in 1990 and followed 13,000 people, ages between 48 and 67, for a 20-year period. The subjects were first tested for pre-diabetes and diabetes and were also given initial memory and problem-solving tests. Over time, the study found those subjects who had diabetes experienced a 19 percent greater decline in mental acuity compared to those without the disease. In addition, those who had diabetes for a longer period of time had greater memory impairment. Subjects who had higher blood glucose levels also suffered greater impairment than those with lower levels. These results have put a new light on the importance of diabetes diagnosis and control to sustain quality of life as people age.

Why Diabetes Affects the Brain

The medical research on diabetes has long understood this disease’s effect on the vascular system. Diabetes is known to be a risk factor in heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and neurological problems. Studies have found that certain compounds in the blood, such as triglycerides and LDL cholesterol that sticks to the walls of blood vessels, impeding the free circulation of nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. In addition, diabetes can also cause damage to the small capillaries in the body. These changes can also lead to memory problems, poor decision-making and reduced mental acuity.

The Importance of Good Diabetes Care

Early testing of blood glucose levels can help physicians find diabetes cases in the initial stages, so that patients can become a regimen of diet and exercise to lower blood sugar levels. When these measures are not sufficient, physicians can begin administering glucose-lowering medications to help safeguard both the physical and mental condition of patients as they age. If necessary, insulin can be administered to keep blood glucose levels under control.

With this new knowledge of high glucose levels’ far-ranging effects on the body and brain, effective diabetes management becomes even more important for patients and their doctors.


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