Elderly with type 2 diabetes may struggle more with verbal memory than their peers without the disease, a recent study suggests. In people with diabetes, verbal fluency declined slightly over the course of the study, while it improved slightly in participants without diabetes. The study has appeared in Diabetologia.
In a longitudinal study, researchers followed 705 older adults without dementia for an average of 4.6 years. At the start, the mean age was 70, and about half the participants had diabetes. Participants without dementia aged 55–90 years from the Cognition and Diabetes in Older Tasmanians (CDOT) study underwent brain MRI (ventricular and total brain volume) and neuropsychological measures (global function and seven cognitive domains) at three time points over 4.6 years. The diabetics in the study were a bit younger, 68 years old on average, compared with an average of 72 for the participants without diabetes.
In people with diabetes, verbal fluency declined slightly over the course of the study, while it improved slightly in participants without diabetes. Brain scans were carried out three times during the study to look for atrophy. The participants also took cognitive tests involving verbal skills.
Although people with diabetes already had more brain atrophy at the start, there was no difference between those with and without diabetes in the rate of brain shrinkage during the study. Atrophy also didn’t appear to explain the link between diabetes and cognitive decline. Therefore the results suggest that brain changes associated with diabetes may begin earlier than previously thought, perhaps in middle age.
The researchers concluded that in older community-dwelling people, type 2 diabetes is associated with a decline in verbal memory and fluency over ~5 years. The effect of diabetes on brain atrophy may begin earlier (midlife).
According to authors one limitation of the study is that the diabetics had relatively well-controlled blood sugar, and it’s possible that the connection between diabetes and changes in the brain might be more apparent in patients with higher blood sugar, the study authors note.
The experts fell that Diet and exercise are key components of brain health and can simultaneously impact blood sugar level so they can be key factors for curbing the cognitive decline in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
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