ROCHESTER, Minn. — March 11, 2014 — People who develop diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age are more likely to have brain cell loss and other damage to the brain, as well as problems with memory and thinking skills, than people who never have diabetes or high blood pressure or who develop it in old age, according to a new study published in the March 19, 2014, online issue of Neurology. Middle age was defined as age 40 to 64 and old age as age 65 and older.
“Potentially, if we can prevent or control diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age, we can prevent or delay the brain damage that occurs decades later and leads to memory and thinking problems and dementia,” says study author and Mayo Clinic epidemiologist Rosebud Roberts M.B., Ch.B.
For the study, the thinking and memory skills of 1,437 people with an average age of 80 were evaluated. The participants had either no thinking or memory problems or mild memory and thinking problems called mild cognitive impairment. They then had brain scans to look for markers of brain damage that can be a precursor to dementia. Participants’ medical records were reviewed to determine whether they had been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure in middle age or later.