A midlife diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes may raise the risk of memory and thinking problems over the next 20 years, new research suggests. Having diabetes in midlife was linked with a 19 per cent greater decline in memory and thinking (cognitive) skills over 20 years, according to the new study. “What we saw was, people with prediabetes, diabetes and poorly controlled diabetes had the higher risks of cognitive decline. The people with the worse cognitive decline were those with poorly controlled diabetes,” said study researcher Elizabeth Selvin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

However, the study authors acknowledged that this study was only able to find an association between diabetes and prediabetes and an increased risk of memory and thinking problems later in life. It wasn’t able to determine if the blood sugar disorders were the actual cause of the memory and thinking issues. Findings from the study are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It was funded by the US National Institutes of Health. About 21 million US adults have diabetes, according to background information in the study. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t use the hormone insulin effectively.

Insulin helps get the sugars from foods into the body’s cells to be used for energy. Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness and kidney disease, according to the study. Diabetes has also been linked with dementia risk, but how diabetes relates to earlier declines in memory and thinking is less well known, the study authors wrote.

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