EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL 4 PM ET, January 08, 2001
Diabetes and High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Cognitive Decline
St. Paul, Minn. – Middle-aged people with diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to lose mental agility than their healthy counterparts, according to a study in the January 9, 2001 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study examined 10,963 people age 47 to 70 from four sites across the country. The participants'' mental abilities were tested at the beginning of the study and those scores were compared to their scores six years later. The average scores for all participants declined over the six-year period. The difference between the average scores and the scores for the people with diabetes and hypertension was modest, but statistically significant, according to study author and neurologist David Knopman, MD, who conducted the study while at the University of Minnesota and is now with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "It probably wasn''t even enough for the participants to notice any change in their mental abilities," Knopman said. "But it shows that diabetes and high blood pressure start affecting cognitive abilities as early as late middle-age. If these diseases can be treated early -- before age 60 -- it might lessen the burden of cognitive problems later in life." Researchers looked at the results by age as well. Diabetes was associated with greater cognitive decline for both the under 58 group and the 58 or older group. High blood pressure was a risk factor for cognitive decline only for the 58 and older group. The study also found no association between smoking, high cholesterol or use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and cognitive decline. Researchers aren''t sure how diabetes and high blood pressure affect cognition. "It could be due to microinfarctions, or tiny areas of brain damage, in the brain''s white matter," Knopman said. "More research is needed to determine how this process works."
The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.