People diagnosed with diabetes in midlife are more likely to experience significant memory and cognitive problems during the next 20 years than those with healthy blood sugar levels, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
The researchers found that diabetes appears to age the mind roughly five years faster beyond the normal effects of aging. For example, on average, a 60-year-old with diabetes experiences cognitive decline on par with a healthy 65-year-old aging normally. Decline in memory, word recall and executive function is strongly associated with progression to dementia, a loss of mental capacity severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily functioning.
A report on the research is published in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The study is believed to be the longest of its kind following a cross-section of adults as they age.
“The lesson is that to have a healthy brain when you’re 70, you need to eat right and exercise when you’re 50,” says study leader Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There is a substantial cognitive decline associated with diabetes, pre-diabetes and poor glucose control in people with diabetes. And we know how to prevent or delay the diabetes associated with this decline.”