Most people understand the health consequences of diabetes including the negative impact on the functioning of the kidneys and heart, reduced blood circulation, vision problems and even the elevated risk of stroke. However, what they might not realize is that diabetes can actually have a serious impact on the brain as well.
Researchers with the University of Pennsylvania recently published a rather eye-opening study in the latest edition of the journal Radiology that concluded that those people suffering from more serious types of diabetes were far more likely to have less brain tissue than those suffering from less severe types of diabetes. They found that this result held true even if the patient's blood pressure was kept within normal levels via treatment.
In addition, the researchers discovered the following after examining MRI scans for 614 study volunteers:
- For every ten years a person has suffered from diabetes, their brain appears to be at least two years older (i.e., less brain tissue) than the brain of a similarly aged person without the disease.
- Those who have suffered from diabetes for 15-plus years have less brain tissue than those who have suffered from the disease for less than four years.
What exactly is behind this "neurodegenerative insult on the brain?"
The researchers theorize that the observed loss of brain tissue in the study volunteers could perhaps be attributed to the accelerated formation of free radicals by abnormal glucose metabolism. This, in turn, could increase inflammation, which serves to hasten the death of older brain cells.
These findings are especially distressing considering the recent spike in Type 2 diabetes among the U.S. population, particularly children.
Fortunately, the researchers are continuing their study to determine if there are effective methods of slowing or even eliminating this cognitive decline that can accompany the onset of diabetes. In the meantime, however, they urge those suffering from diabetes to start properly treating the disease as soon as possible.
"Diabetes affects everything, and everything you do to control it, from exercise to proper diet and medication, are important to prevent blindness and keep you from losing a limb, and are also important for the brain," said one of the researchers.
If you've been diagnosed with a severe form of diabetes that has left you unable to work and unable to secure the Social Security disability benefits you need, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options.
Source: Time, "Diabetes ages the brain by two years, says study," Alice Park, April 29, 2014