Diabetic Adults With High Blood Pressure At Higher Risk Of Brain Damage

Diabetes and high blood pressure are never a walk in the park for anyone, but new scientific evidence reveals that middle-aged adults suffering from both afflictions — in particular from type-2 diabetes — are also at higher risk for brain damage, including memory problems and also dementia. The results showed that over time, the brains of people with type-2 diabetes typically became reduced in size, in particular the hippocampus (the area for memory.)

The study, which was published in the online journal Neurology, involved roughly 1,400 people, with their average age being 80. The vast majority had a relatively good cognitive state, with mild cognitive impairment at the worst.

Throughout the study, researchers examined the participants' brains with MRIs. They also took a look at their medical records from the ages of 40-64, which is roughly the "middle age."

Here are the results:

  • Participants who developed diabetes in their middle age had smaller brains than those who hadn't — a size difference of 2.9 percent.
  • Participants who developed diabetes in their middle age also had smaller hippocampi by 4 percent in comparison to non-diabetics.
  • Participants with middle age diabetes had an 85 percent greater risk of "micro-strokes," and twice as likely to have memory problems.

The study's lead author, Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. Rosebud Roberts, told WebMD:

"People who had diabetes earlier in life had much worse brain [structure] than those who had it later in life. These scans are showing us that cognitive impairment happens over a long period of time. The earlier you develop type 2 diabetes, the more likely you are to have damage."

Fortunately, there are recommendations for diabetic sufferers to take. "If you control your diabetes well, it should reduce the damage that is being caused in your brain," Dr. Roberts told WebMD.