Healthy blood sugar levels important as we age
New research has found that older people suffering with type 2 diabetes have a higher rate of cognitive decline, specifically in verbal memory and fluency measures, over a five-year period.
This study from the University of Tasmania and published in the journal Diabetologia, recruited 705 people aged 55-90 years within Tasmania. About half (348) of the participants had type 2 diabetes. MRI brain scans and cognitive functioning tests were used to measure brain size and brain function three times over the course of the five-year study.
The researchers found that the people with type 2 diabetes had a significantly higher rate of decline in both verbal memory and verbal fluency compared with the people without type 2 diabetes.
“Such accelerated cognitive decline may contribute to executive difficulties in everyday activities and health behaviours — such as medication compliance — which in turn may poorly influence future vascular health and cognitive decline, and possibly an earlier onset of dementia in those with type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Michele Callisaya, the study’s lead researcher.
The researchers found that at the beginning of the study the people with type 2 diabetes had a greater degree of brain atrophy (shrinking) compared with people without type 2 diabetes. However, throughout the five years of the study the type 2 diabetics didn’t have a greater degree of brain atrophy compared to the people without type 2 diabetes. The authors suggested that possibly this atrophy in diabetics could be occurring at a younger age and is still a concern, despite not seeing progression of atrophy during the study.
“[T]ype 2 diabetes is associated with a decline in verbal memory and fluency over approximately five years, but the effect of diabetes on brain atrophy may begin earlier, for example in midlife, given the evidence of greater brain atrophy in people with T2D at the start of the study. If this is the case, both pharmacological and lifestyle interventions to prevent brain atrophy in people with T2D may need to commence before older age.”
Past research from 2015 published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging found that the risk of developing dementia is 50 per cent to 150 per cent higher in people with type 2 diabetes. With this in mind and with the results of this recent research, type 2 diabetes can be seen as a significant risk factor for cognitive decline.
Then there is the question of what a type 2 diabetic can do to protect themselves from cognitive decline. Luckily there is a lot that they can do. Type 2 diabetes can be successfully treated with diet and lifestyle changes in the majority of cases. Goals of achieving a healthy body weight, lowering blood sugar, normalizing blood pressure and establishing healthy dietary and exercise habits can vastly improve a type 2 diabetic’s physical and cognitive health.
Do you have questions about lowering blood sugar and managing diabetes? Ask your naturopathic doctor.
Having a handle on blood sugar is key to our physical and cognitive health.