Diabetes May Cause Memory Problems

Having diabetes could significantly speed your rate of mental decline when you get older, the New York Times reported June 19.

Seniors (average age 74) who developed diabetes or whose diabetes worsened over the course of a nine-year study experienced precipitous declines in cognitive test scores compared to their scores at the study’s start, Kristine Yaffe, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco and her colleagues found.

Those who had diabetes at the study’s start had lower average baseline cognitive scores to begin with than those who were diabetes-free, but everyone’s scores declined as their diabetes worsened, the study shows.

In other words, even if you already have diabetes, preventing it from getting worse should help prevent further cognitive declines, although Yaffe says it’s better to start trying to prevent or manage your diabetes in midlife rather than when you’re past retirement age.

“In older people it’s a slippery slope,” she says. “When you lower their blood-sugar levels too aggressively, you might do more harm than good.”

Exercise, losing weight (if you’re overweight), and eating healthfully can help prevent or manage diabetes, studies show.

The study appears online in the Archives of Neurology.