Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New study singles out factors linked to cognitive deficits in type 2 diabetes

Older adults with diabetes who have high blood pressure, walk slowly or lose their balance, or believe they're in bad health, are significantly more likely to have weaker memory and slower, more rigid cognitive processing than those without these problems, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

These three health factors stood out from more than a dozen suspected to shape how Type 2 diabetes is frequently shadowed by cognitive impairment, including dementia. An analysis in September's Neuropsychology stresses that although these factors might not actually cause cognitive problems, their presence can warn doctors that such problems may exist or soon develop.

"Awareness of the link between diabetes and cognition could help people realize how important it is to manage this disease--and to motivate them to do so," said co-author Roger Dixon, PhD, of the University of Alberta.

Type 2 diabetes has been found by other researchers to nearly double the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, said Dixon, who studies how health affects cognition in aging. As diabetes becomes more common, this heightened risk could dramatically hike the number of older people with dementia – a double whammy of serious chronic disease. Among people older than 60, the U.S. prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is more than 23 percent, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases. The Canadian prevalence is nearly 19 percent, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

An analysis of older Canadians living in British Columbia -- 41 with Type 2 diabetes (ages 55-81) and 458 matched healthy controls (ages 53-90) -- found that systolic blood pressure (the top number, or maximum pressure on artery walls during a single heartbeat), a low combination score for gait and balance, and a patient's own reports of poor health all played a statistically significant role in the relationship between diabetes and cognitive impairment relationship.

In other words, higher but still normal blood pressure, slower gait and shakier balance, and/or reporting one's self to be in bad health regardless of actual problems boosted the likelihood that someone with Type 2 diabetes had impaired cognition. The relationships were linear: For example, the worse the balance, the higher the likelihood of cognitive problems, as measured by mental speed (reaction time, switching time and perceptual speed), mental control and flexibility (executive functioning), and recall of recent learning (episodic memory).

The results highlight factors that may work indirectly, gradually and cumulatively to make older diabetics more likely to develop dementia. Researchers tested 13 different variables in all, in the areas of general fitness, emotional health, subjective and functional health, and lifestyle activities.

Mediating Factors

Because diabetes and hypertension often go together, Dixon said he was not surprised that high systolic blood pressure accounted for one-third to one-half of significantly worse scores on four tests. That finding, said the authors, suggests that diabetes and cognition may be connected via diabetics' vascular problems. For example, diabetes and hypertension may both play a role in a larger metabolic syndrome that includes high blood sugar and insulin resistance.

However, the other two factors raised new questions. Combined gait and balance had the greatest influence, accounting for between 32 percent and 62 percent of performance on seven cognitive tests. Diabetes might affect the specific nerves that control gait and balance, the authors wrote, or more broadly affect the overlapping brain areas that support both gait-balance and cognition.

Like blood pressure, what people said about their health accounted for about one-third to one-half of performance on five different cognitive tests. Negativity about one's health could reflect related factors such as stress or depression, which did not, in this study, directly mediate between diabetes and cognition. Self-reported health is "an important indicator of ways in which a cluster of health-related beliefs and behaviors can modulate the effect of this disease on cognitive adaptation," Dixon said.

"It's important to pay attention to the health beliefs of older adults, not because they are necessarily accurate or valid indicators of specific health status, but because they might track overall health," Dixon said.

Type 2 diabetes in adults accounts for 90 percent to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases.

Article: "Testing Covariates of Type 2 Diabetes-Cognition Associations in Older Adults: Moderating or Mediating Effects?" G. Peggy McFall, MSc, and Bonnie P. Geall, BSc, University of Alberta; Ashley L. Fischer, BSc, Simon Fraser University; Sanda Dolcos, PhD, and Roger A. Dixon, PhD, University of Alberta; Neuropsychology, Vol. 24, No. 5.

(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at

Contact: Dr. Roger Dixon at or (780) 492-5850.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 152,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

Public Affairs Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>