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Diabetes May Speed Up Deterioration of Mental Faculties

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Seniors who had poor blood sugar control fared worse on tests of memory, thinking, researchers say

The findings of a new study suggest that older diabetic adults with poor control of their blood sugar levels have a higher risk of greater deterioration in their memory and thinking abilities.

For the study, over 3,000 people suffering from dementia were followed by the researchers for more than 10 years. The average age of the participants was 74.

Twenty-three percent of the participants had diabetes at the time the study started. Over 2,300 who participated in the study had no diabetes; and 159 of them developed the condition during the follow-up period.

The association between diabetes and mental decline

People who were diabetic at the beginning of the study had lower scores on preliminary tests of their thinking abilities compared to those who had no diabetes. Diabetic participants manifested much greater deterioration in mental function during the follow-up period compared to those who were not diabetic.

The new study appeared online in the June 18 issue of the journal Archives of Neurology.

In a news release issued by the journal, Dr. Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and her team said that the findings of the study provide support to the theory that older diabetic adults have reduced memory function and thinking abilities; and that poor control of blood sugar levels may contribute to this mental decline.

According to the researchers, more research is called for in order to find out if early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes lowers the odds of mental deterioration and if good blood sugar control helps lower the impact of diabetes on thinking skills and memory function.

However, the study did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship even though it found a link between diabetes and mental deterioration.

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