ST. PAUL, MN - Middle-aged people with diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to lose mental agility than their healthy counterparts, according to a study in the January 9 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study examined 10,963 people age 47 to 70 from four sites across the country. The participants' mental abilities were tested at the beginning of the study and those scores were compared to their scores six years later.
The average scores for all participants declined over the six-year period. The difference between the average scores and the scores for the people with diabetes and hypertension was modest, but statistically significant, according to study author and neurologist David Knopman, MD, who conducted the study while at the University of Minnesota and is now with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"It probably wasn't even enough for the participants to notice any change in their mental abilities," Knopman said. "But it shows that diabetes and high blood pressure start affecting cognitive abilities as early as late middle-age. If these diseases can be treated early -- before age 60 -- it might lessen the burden of cognitive problems later in life."
Researchers looked at the results by age as well. Diabetes was associated with greater cognitive decline for both the under 58 group and the 58 or older group. High blood pressure was a risk factor for cognitive decline only for the 58 and older group.
The study also found no association between smoking, high cholesterol or use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and cognitive decline.
Researchers aren't sure how diabetes and high blood pressure affect cognition. "It could be due to microinfarctions, or tiny areas of brain damage, in the brain's white matter," Knopman said. "More research is needed to determine how this process works."
For more information contact: Kathy Stone (651) 695-2763
A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 17,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.