Type 2 diabetes linked with cognitive impairments, study shows

WASHINGTON A small study conducted by Canadian researchers found factors that may link Type 2 diabetes with such cognitive impairments as dementia.

Older adults with diabetes who also have high blood pressure, walk slowly or lose their balance, or believe they’re in bad health, are more likely to have poorer cognitive functions than those without these problems, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada and published in the September issue of Neuropsychology

The study of older Canadians -- 41 adults with Type 2 diabetes, ages 55 to 81 years, and 458 matched healthy controls (ages 53 to 90 years) -- found that systolic blood pressure, a low combination score for gait and balance, and a patient’s own reports of poor health all played a statistically significant role in the relationship between diabetes and cognitive impairment.

“Awareness of the link between diabetes and cognition could help people realize how important it is to manage this disease, and to motivate them to do so,” said co-author Roger Dixon, PhD, of the University of Alberta.

Type 2 diabetes has been found by other researchers to nearly double the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, said Dixon, who studies how health affects cognition in aging. As diabetes becomes more common, this heightened risk could dramatically hike the number of older people with dementia.

The prevalence of diabetes in the United States for people older than age 60 -- according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases -- is more than 23%, while Canadian prevalence is nearly 19%, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.