Last week, a couple (both are my clients), walked into my clinic and the husband wanted to know if there was any definitive test for 'mental power' as he put it. On probing a bit deeper he said he felt his mental abilities had declined somewhat but that he wasn't very sure of it. I knew he was suffering from diabetes and more recently also had blood pressure problems.
I'm Deborah Susan, a dietician and personal trainer specializing in nutrition and physical fitness for diabetics. I've written several dozen blogs covering various aspects of diabetes including symptoms, monitoring, explaining glycaemic index, carbohydrate counting, and correlation between body weight, lifestyle and diabetes and so on. This week I shall write about the possible link between diabetes, blood pressure and mental decline.
Over time, all of us undergo changes in our diabetes mental abilities. Up to 50 or so, research seems to indicate that healthy individuals get smarter. Between 50 and 60 our body maintains the status and post 60 years of age, it begins to decline gradually and then more rapidly as we age. In some individuals however, the decline might begin sooner than expected.
When this couple visited me, I decided to dig up all research papers on the subject. Here are my conclusions:
Studies have indicated that high blood pressure when combined with diabetes in middle aged people can trigger a decline in mental function earlier than expected. However, in none of the papers was there any conclusive evidence presented that high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and hypertension had anything to do with mental decline. The presence of these two medical complications along with mental decline was assumed to be reason enough to link all three.
The most detailed study was conducted by physicians from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota Researchers. They studied close to 11,000 people between the ages 47 and 60 over a six-year period. Tests were taken at the start and end of the six year period and found that people who had high blood pressure and diabetes at the start of the six year period fared worse in the mental tests at the end of the six year period.
While I do not dispute the findings, I personally feel it is too early to jump to conclusions. The mere presence of diabetes and high blood is not conclusive. More similar research will have to be conducted before we can acknowledge the link. However, I do agree that something in bodies of those suffering from diabetes and high blood, seems to point towards a decline in cognitive function. So if you are already a diabetic and also have high blood pressure then you need to ensure you keep both under control because irrespective of whether or not it leads to a decline in cognitive function, untreated diseases will lead to a decline in your happiness and well-being.