Diabetes Self-Management Blog

High blood pressure, a slow gait or poor balance, and self-reported bad health have been identified in a new study as three factors linked to cognitive deficits in older people with Type 2 diabetes. Previous research has indicated that Type 2 almost doubles the risk of Alzheimer disease and dementia.

To better understand how Type 2 diabetes affects cognitive health, researchers from the University of Alberta, in Canada, looked at data collected on 41 adults with Type 2 diabetes and 458 adults without the condition. The scientists tested 13 different variables in the areas of general fitness, emotional health, subjective and functional health, and lifestyle activities to see what, if any, relationship these variables had to cognitive function. Factors such as mental speed (how quickly information is process and acted upon), mental control and flexibility (including mental functions that deal with planning and organizing), and recall of recent learning were all used to evaluate cognitive health.

The data showed that higher systolic blood pressure (the top number), walking slowly or having balance problems, and a poor view of one’s own health all had a statistically significant relationship to cognitive impairment in people with Type 2. The relationships were all linear, meaning, for example, that the higher a person’s systolic blood pressure, the higher his chance of having cognitive issues.

Although these three factors may not actually cause cognitive deficits, the researchers note that their presence can alert health-care providers to be on the lookout for existing or developing cognitive problems. According to study co-author Roger Dixon, PhD, “Awareness of the link between diabetes and cognition could help people realize how important it is to manage this disease — and to motivate them to do so.”

To learn more about the research, read the article “New Study Singles Out Factors Linked to Cognitive Deficits in Type 2 Diabetes” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Neuropsychology. And for more about the signs of dementia, see this information from the American Academy of Family Physicians.


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