Diabetes and Diet: Does Diabetes Slow Down Your Brain as You Age?

Got type 2 diabetes or prediabetes? It may muddy your thinking as you age.

Scientists tracked more than 13,000 adults who were 48 to 67 years old when they entered the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.


Over the next 20 years, those with diabetes had a 19 percent greater cognitive decline—poorer performance on tests of processing speed and executive function—than those without diabetes. Put another way, a 55-year-old with diabetes performed like a 60-year-old without the disease.

People with prediabetes (a hemoglobin A1C level of 5.7% to 6.4%) had about half as much decline as those with diabetes.

What to do: To lower your risk of diabetes, lose (or don’t gain) extra pounds and exercise for at least a half hour a day. It may also help to avoid sugary drinks, eat magnesium-rich foods (leafy greens, beans, whole grains, and nuts), and get enough vitamin D (600 IU a day up to age 70 and 800 IU over 70).

Source: Ann. Intern. Med. 161: 785, 2014.

Other relevant links:

• What may be causing the prediabetes epidemic? See: Diabetes and Diet: Prediabetes Is More Common than You’d Think

• Lose weight to ward off diabetes. See: Diabetes and Diet: How to Prevent Prediabetes from Becoming Full-Blown Diabetes

• Can high blood sugar lead to brain atrophy? See: Diabetes and Diet: The Effect of Diabetes on the Brain

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