Dr. Kristine Yaffe
Findings: Diabetes mellitus (diabetes) has a big effect on cognition, and researchers are exploring how these conditions are linked. Dr. Kristine Yaffe, who was funded by Alzheimer's Disease Research, and colleagues from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) analyzed the rate of cognitive decline in more than 3,069 people age 70 and older with diabetes who are enrolled in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. All participants in Health ABC are given cognitive tests at regular intervals, and Yaffe found that those with diabetes had lower test scores when compared to baseline than participants without diabetes. In addition, diabetic individuals who had poor control over their blood sugar levels were associated with lower average cognitive scores than those with good blood sugar level control.
Significance: Dr. Kristine Yaffe's findings have improved our understanding of how diabetes, poor control of blood sugar, and cognitive impairment are linked. This is the first study to show that both the duration and severity of diabetes can lead to increased risk of cognitive decline. Future studies should determine if early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, and maintenance of optimal control of blood sugar levels, could lessen the risk of developing cognitive impairment.