The impact of diabetes on cognitive decline
Diabetes isn’t a stand-alone condition which simply requires the management of blood sugar levels. Left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can lead directly to other health conditions including heart disease, kidney disease, and mental problems. In our specialist area we’ve commented in recent months about the impact which diabetes can have on eye health including the increased risk of glaucoma in diabetes patients.
There is another area which becoming increasingly prominent; the link between diabetes and cognitive decline. It’s not a new area of study with previous research showing a causal link between diabetes and cognitive impairment. However, a number of new studies have demonstrated the impact which diabetes can have on brain health.
One Indian study released in 2022 which looked at cognitive impairment in 800 patients at one facility, 400 diabetic and 400 non-diabetic, revealed that cognitive impairment was present in 63.8% of the diabetic patients but only 10.8% of the non-diabetic patients. 
Another German study released in the same year concluded that Type2 diabetes was associated with worse cognitive performance equating to around four years of aging with memory being particularly affected. 
These studies and others have been supported by another 2022 study which drew on the UK Biobank.  That study concluded that Type2 diabetes was linked with a marked acceleration of normal brain aging, with “gray matter atrophy occurring approximately 26% ± 14% faster than seen with normal aging”. That study highlighted the areas of executive function and processing speed as being particularly impacted. It also concluded that: “neurodegeneration severity for all regions increased with longer disease duration.”
That cognitive degeneration is more severe the longer that someone has had diabetes is perhaps not a surprise. But it is a call to action.
The sooner that someone is diagnosed with diabetes, the quicker that a management plan can be put in place.
Caught early enough, certain lifestyle changes may help to reverse or lessen the severity of diabetes, helping to protect future brain health. Even better, if pre-diabetes is diagnosed, perhaps in the future through the use of the optical device which is being researched and developed by Occuity, then there is a chance to take action in order to prevent an individual from going on to develop diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition which can have so much impact on our health in so many ways. Early diagnosis and intervention could help to limit the impact of diabetes, helping individuals to enjoy a healthier old age.
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