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Back To Vidyya Older Women With Diabetes At Risk For Concentration And Memory Problems

Lower Levels Of Cognitive Function And Quicker Cognitive Decline May Be Additional Complications Of Diabetes

According to recent research reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), lower levels of cognitive function and quicker cognitive decline may be additional complications facing older women who have diabetes. Cognitive functions include concentration, attention, problem-solving ability and short-term memory.

In a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, the CDC found that women aged 65 years and older who have diabetes scored lower in three cognitive tests than women without diabetes and had a greater rate of cognitive decline over three to six years. The tests measured such cognitive functions as concentration, language, memory, psychomotor performance, and perceptual organization. The study also showed that women who had diabetes for 15 years or longer had a 57 percent to 114 percent greater risk of major cognitive decline than women without diabetes.

"Because diabetes affects up to 18 percent of women and 20 percent of men aged 65 years and older, a significant relationship between diabetes and cognitive impairment would have important clinical and public health implications," said Frank Vinicor, MD, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.

The six-year study compared more than 9,500 women aged 65-99 years. This was the largest population-based study of older women to evaluate the relationship between diabetes and cognitive function using repeated clinical neuropsychologic tests.

"In light of these parallel trends, our findings have important clinical, public health, and societal ramifications,"" said Edward W. Gregg, PhD, lead author of the study. "Loss of cognitive ability leads to deterioration in quality of life and independence for older people. It also impacts heavily on family members and can mean costly and long-term use of health services."

More than 15 million people in the United States have diabetes, with approximately 798,000 new cases of diabetes being diagnosed each year. It is the seventh leading cause of death in this country and a major contributor to such health problems as heart disease, stroke, blindness, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and amputations. This study suggests cognitive impairment may also be considered a potential long-term outcome of diabetes which clinicians should be aware of while caring for older adults with diabetes.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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