Type 2 diabetes is linked with a number of health problems, but a new study finds that older diabetics who have high blood pressure, gait and balance problems or think their health is poor may be at higher risk for cognitive problems.
Researchers looked at 13 potential variables that could affect cognition, including grip strength, blood pressure, involvement in physical activities, social engagement, gait and balance, and a subjective measure of a person's health.
The study participants, from British Columbia, included 41 people with Type 2 diabetes age 55 to 81, and a matched group of 458 healthy people that served as a control. They were given cognitive tests that measured memory, verbal fluency, neurocognitive speed, and other abilities.
Three health-related variables were found to be most associated with a higher risk of cognition problems: high systolic blood pressure (the top number that measures the heart's contractions), walking more slowly and being unstable, and thinking that one's health is bad.
Blood pressure might be a factor, the study authors said, because of its role in other metabolic issues such as insulin resistance and hyperglycemia, which may be risk factors for cerebrovascular impairment. Walking and balance could figure in since diabetes may influence the areas of the brain that control gait, balance and cognition. And because Type 2 diabetes can affect stress and depression, those factors could influence results on cognitive tests.
Though the study points out that these related health issues may not always produce learning or memory problems, they are important enough risk factors to be noted.
"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 study co-author Roger Dixon of the University of Alberta, in a news release.
The study appears in the September issue of the journal Neuropsychology.
-- Jeannine Stein / Los Angeles Times