New Study regarding Diabetes and Memory Loss

Weâ??ve long heard of the lasting damage done by both Diabetes and Hypertension, the loss of feeling, loss of limbs, loss of eyesight and kidney damage. But a recent study suggests that memory might need to be added to the list. Dr. Justin Puckett, from Complete Family Medicine, stopped by the set of Good Morning Heartland to break it down. WATCH VIDEO ABOVE to learn more.

Question: How does Diabetes damage the limbs, eyes, and kidneys?

Answer: In addition to the immediate symptoms of high blood sugar, diabetes can cause long term damage to our body. The long term damage is commonly referred to as diabetic complications. Diabetes affects our blood vessels and nerves and therefore can affect any part of the body. However, certain parts of our body are affected more than other parts.

Diabetic complications will usually take a number of years of poorly controlled diabetes to develop. Complications are not a certainty and can be kept at bay and prevented by maintaining a strong level of control on your diabetes, your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Question: Tell us about the new study.

Answer: The study involved more than 1,400 people with an average age of 80, according to the report published online March 19 in the journal Neurology. The study participants had at most slight memory and thinking problems called mild cognitive impairment. The researchers assessed the participants' thinking and memory skills, noting any signs of mild impairment.

The study participants then underwent MRI brain scans to look for signs of brain damage that can be an early indication of dementia.

Finally, the researchers reviewed the participants' medical records to see whether they had been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure in middle age, which, for the purposes of this study, ran from 40 to 64.

The study authors found that people who developed diabetes in middle age had brains that were on average 2.9 percent smaller than people who didn't have diabetes. And their hippocampi were even smaller -- an average of 4 percent smaller than those of non-diabetics.

People who develop type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure in middle age appear more likely to suffer brain damage that can contribute to dementia as they grow older, a new study finds.

Diabetes might actually shrink the brain over a long period of time, reducing the size of crucial areas like the hippocampus, which plays an important role in short- and long-term memory, according to the study.

Additionally, diabetes and high blood pressure both seem to increase a person's risk of micro-strokes and other damage to the blood vessels that feed the brain, the Mayo Clinic authors said in an article.

Diabetes has long been linked to problems with thinking and memory later in life, but this study is the first to provide solid evidence explaining why that occurs.

Question: So the study talked about Mid-Life Diabetes, what is that and why does it matter?

Answer: Midlife diabetes is when diabetes starts earlier in life, in the middle years of the 40-50s. These people have several more decades of elevated sugars and problems. The study found that Midlife diabetes also was associated with an 85 percent greater risk of micro-strokes in the brain. Finally, people with middle-age diabetes were twice as likely to have thinking or memory problems, the study found.

Question: Are you convinced that all diabetics will have memory problems?

Answer: Although the study uncovered an apparent link between diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age and memory problems later in life, it didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The research results emphasize the need for people to adopt a healthy lifestyle in middle age or earlier. Recent polls show that nearly a quarter of people mistakenly think they're at risk for Alzheimer's disease only if it runs in their family. In reality, dementia can strike anyone if they don't take good care of themselves.

People who want to protect their brain health should avoid developing diabetes or high blood pressure, Roberts said. She noted that even people who became diabetic in old age still suffered areas of brain damage as a result of the disease.

If a person does develop either chronic condition, they can limit the impact on thinking and memory by controlling the disease with diet, exercise and medication.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you have an increased risk of brain damage. But if you control your diabetes well, it should reduce the damage that is being caused in your brain.

Justin Puckett, DO
Complete Family Medicine

1611 S. Baltimore

Kirksville, MO. 63501