Diabetes can take as devastating a toll on the brain as it takes on the body, says new research on the subject. A recent study shows that people with type 2 diabetes demonstrate a decline in cognitive skills and ability to perform daily activities over the course of only two years. These changes are linked with an impaired ability to regulate blood flow in the brain, due in part to inflammation, which is a common component of type 2 diabetes.
Normally, the brain distributes blood as needed to areas of increased neural activity. In diabetic individuals, however, this process becomes impaired.
"People with diabetes have impaired ability to increase blood flow and deliver sugar and oxygen to the brain during episodes of increased mental activity," said the study's lead author, Dr. Vera Novak of the Harvard Medical School. "Inflammation further alters blood flow regulation in diabetic people and contributes to mental and functional decline."
The study is the latest to observe a link between diabetes and cognitive decline. Hopefully, these findings will one day be used to devise better treatments for the degeneration of thinking and memory skills co-occurring with diabetes.
"Worse performance on daily activities, worse memory or slower gait speed in older diabetic adults may hallmark a decline in ability to regulate blood flow in the brain," said Novak. "For older diabetic people it is important to maintain healthy lifestyle and minimize fluctuations of blood sugar levels, in addition to their medication regimen.