New research from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reveals informative and quite honestly startling data regarding the correlation between diabetes in midlife and cognitive decline in older age. There is a strong correlation between the declination of cognitive processes such as memory, word recall, and executive functioning and the progression of dementia. Results yielded from the research suggest that diabetes tends to age the mind five years faster than the normative effects of aging. For example a 60-year-old with diabetes experiences a similar amount of cognitive decline as a 65-year-old without diabetes.
This study, led by Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, is thought to be the longest running study of its kind as it followed a cross-section of adults as they aged. For the study, Dr. Selvin used data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), which began in 1987 and contains a participant pool of 15, 792 adults from four different states. The participants were evaluated (including a cognitive evaluation) four times, approximately three years apart, beginning in 1987. The participants were then seen a fifth and final time between 2011 and 2013. The researchers found that the participants with poorly controlled diabetes experienced cognitive decline that was 19 % worse than expected for their age group.
This research emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle as it can potentially prevent diabetes and, now evidently, dementia. The cost of dementia nationwide was estimated to be approximately 159 billion dollars in 2010. With the fact that people are living longer than ever before, the cost of dementia is estimated to increase by an additional 80 billion dollars within the next 25 years. Dr. Selvin states that even if we could delay dementia for a few years, it could have a huge impact on the population in terms of both quality of life and healthcare costs. With America experiencing its highest obesity rates for both children and adults, it does not bode well regarding the estimated future prevalence of dementia. However, if this information is proliferated and embraced, it may have the potential to motivate people into adopting a healthier lifestyle to avoid the tragic fate of dementia.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2014, December 1). Diabetes in midlife linked to significant cognitive decline 20 years later. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
Faisal Roberts, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern