If you are looking for ways to protect your brain as you age, a new study indicates that one of the best things you can do is not get diabetes.  People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in middle age have brains that age 5 years faster than those without the condition.  As people move into their later years, those with diabetes experience about 20% more decrease in cognitive function than those without the disease.

Protect Your Brain, Prevent Diabetes“Want to ward off memory issues and other cognitive problems as you age? Looks like low blood glucose levels are an important factor. New research finds that individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in middle age had greater cognitive impairment in the following decades than their nondiabetic counterparts.

In fact, poorly managed diabetes appears to age the brain roughly five years faster than normal. That means a 55-year-old with diabetes has cognitive decline on par with a healthy 60-year-old. And the problems accumulate: over 20 years, diabetes in midlife is associated with a 19 percent decrease in mental function. Cognitive decline is considered a precursor to dementia. The findings are in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. [Andreea M. Rawlings et al, Diabetes in Midlife and Cognitive Change Over 20 Years: A Cohort Study]

A team from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed some 6,000 study subjects in Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota and Mississippi from 1987 through 2013. The researchers used accepted tests to evaluate the participants’ cognitive performance. And the people with low blood sugar levels outperformed those with midlife diabetes or pre-diabetes.  

The researchers’ conclusion: better weight control, exercise and a healthful diet could really help keep both body—and mind—fit over the long haul.”

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