A recent study published in the Archives of Neurology finds a new link between diabetes mellitus (DM) and cognitive decline. According to researchers, older adults who have dementia, DM and poor glucose control show greater cognitive decline than those without DM, reports Senior Journal.
DM refers to both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Over time, the illness can lead to issues such as blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage. There are approximately 25 million people in the U.S. suffering from DM, according to MedicineNet.com.
Other studies have linked DM with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, but there have been debates about the validity of these studies. This most recent report adds weight to the argument that there is indeed a correlation between DM and cognitive decline among older adults.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center examined a group of 3,069 adult men and women with an average of 74.2 years. Each participant completed the Modified Mini-Mental State Examinations and Digit Substitution Test several times over the course of a decade. These two tests helped determine the cognitive function of those taking part in the study.
In the first year of the study, just under a quarter of the participants had prevalent DM. Of the remaining 2,352 participants, 159 had developed DM by the time of a follow-up appointment with the researchers.
Patients who had prevalent DM at the beginning of the study showed lower scores than patients without the illness on both tests. DM patients' results continued to fall lower than their counterparts' over the course of the following nine years. Higher levels of hemoglobin A1c were also associated with lower test scores.
DM is a disease that can be difficult to manage on its own, even for those who don't have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Older adults who need assistance with their medical supplies and illness management may want to consider enlisting the help of elderly care professionals.
"This study supports the hypothesis that older adults with DM have reduced cognitive function and that poor glycemic control may contribute to this association," the authors wrote, according to Senior Journal. "Future studies should determine if early diagnosis and treatment of DM lessen the risk of developing cognitive impairment and if maintaining optimal glucose control helps mitigate the effects of DM on cognition."
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