Diabetes linked with mental decline in elderly adults

The complications that result from diabetes may not just impact a person’s physical health – but their mental health is well.

Published in the Archives of Neurology, a new study has found that over a ten year period, older individuals with diabetes had much lower cognitive test scores than other people of their age without the condition, the New York Times reported.  The results were even more poignant for those with Type 2 diabetes, which is more related with obesity and inactivity.

“What we’ve shown is a clear association with diabetes and cognitive aging in terms of the slope and the rate of decline on these cognitive tests,” Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of California, San Francisco and the study’s lead author, told the New York Times. “That’s very powerful.”

Yaffe and her colleagues got their results after analyzing data from 3,069 people participating in the Health, Aging and Body Composition project – a long-term study of older adults in living in Pittsburgh and Tennessee.  Over about a decade, participants were repeatedly given cognitive tests that evaluated memorization skills, dexterity, coordination and overall mental state.

At the beginning of the study, those with diabetes had a slightly lower baseline score than those who did not.  But towards the study’s conclusion, the gap in cognitive tests greatly widened, with the diabetic participants scoring much more poorly.  Also, those who did not have diabetes at the start of the research but developed it later on scored much worse at the end of the study.

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