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Adult-onset diabetes slows mental functioning in several ways, with deficits appearing early
Date:1/5/2009

e diabetes-linked cognitive deficits appear early and remain stable.

"Speed and executive functioning are thought to be among the major components of cognitive health," says co-author Roger Dixon, PhD. With Type 2 diabetes a growing concern among adults of all ages, but especially those above age 30, Dixon says that public health programs could check the cognitive status of people with more advanced or severe cases; ensure that diet and medications are effectively employed in all early diagnosed cases; and enact possible cognitive monitoring or training programs for people with diabetes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new cases of diabetes nearly doubled in the past decade, with nearly one new case for every 100 adults between the years 2005 and 2007.

The normal age-related slowing of thought processes could be exacerbated by diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, says Dixon. But, he continues, "There could be some ways to compensate for these declines, at least early and with proper management." The level of impairment detected, he adds, should not make it hard for people to manage their condition.

Diabetes is a known risk factor for late-life neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Although the deficits detected in the current sample were not clinically significant, they appear (according to subsequent research by the authors) to foreshadow additional deficits. Only further study would reveal whether it's possible to "connect the dots" between mild early deficits in speed and executive function, and later signs of a progressive cognitive impairment.


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