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Diabetes, Exercise, Outlook, and Your Brain

Tara Dairman

January 23, 2009

A few new studies about cognitive function — the ability to think, reason, and remember — have made the news this month. One has linked Type 2 diabetes with an early decline in certain types of cognitive function; another has shown that a positive attitude may help ward off dementia; and a third has shown that exercise may help boost cognitive functioning in older people.

The first study, published in the journal Neuropsychology, found that people with Type 2 diabetes did worse than people without diabetes on a few different types of mental functioning tests. The study spanned several years, but the difference was apparent even in those who were “early in the disease process.” You can read more about this study in the MedPage Today article “Diabetes’ Effect on Cognitive Function Spans Age Groups” and the diabetes.about.com blog entry “Type 2 Diabetes Appears to Cause Early Mental Changes.”

Another study, published in the journal Neurology, looked for links between personality and chances of developing dementia (such as Alzheimer disease). Researchers questioned over 500 older people about their personality traits and lifestyles, then six years later assessed how many people had developed dementia. They found that people who were calmer and more relaxed were 50% less likely to develop dementia than more “neurotic” people; also, people who were outgoing and had active social lives were 50% less likely to develop dementia than their less outgoing counterparts. You can read more about this study in the Medline Plus article “Positive Outlook Cuts Chances of Dementia.”

Finally, a study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found that women over the age of 65 who exercised regularly had higher cognitive function scores (by 10%) than those who did not exercise. The exercisers also had lower blood pressure and better blood flow in the brain. Read more in the Medline Plus article “Simple Exercise Keeps Brain at Top of Its Game.”

What’s your take on these findings? Do you feel that your diabetes has affected how well your mind works? Does exercise help keep your mind sharp? Do you think that your attitude toward life can really affect your dementia risk? Let us know with a comment.

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