The REAL mid-life crisis

If you haven’t taken control of your blood sugar yet, now is the time. Because a brand new study has highlighted one of the most frightening side effects of diabetes—and perhaps the most compelling reason yet to stop it before it starts.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who are diagnosed with diabetes in midlife are more likely to have significant memory and cognitive problems during the next 20 years than those with healthy blood sugar levels.

Specifically, the researchers found that diabetes appears to age the brain around five years faster than the normal effects of aging.

The study used data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, which began following a group of over 15,000 middle-aged adults in communities in Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota and Mississippi back in 1987. Participants were seen every three years until 1998 and researchers followed up with them again between 2011 and 2013.

The researchers compared the amount of cognitive decline associated with general aging with the amount of decline found in the ARIC participants. And they determined there was 19 percent greater decline than expected in those participants with poorly controlled diabetes. (And results weren’t much better even for the patients who did have their diabetes under control.)

“The lesson is that to have a healthy brain when you’re 70, you need to eat right and exercise when you’re 50,” said study leader Elizabeth Selvin, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There is a substantial cognitive decline associated with diabetes, pre-diabetes and poor glucose control in people with diabetes. And we know how to prevent or delay the diabetes associated with this decline.”

I’d say “I couldn’t have said this better myself,” but … I have said it. Still, I’m more than OK with seeing the point repeated. So I’ll just say this: control your weight, exercise regularly (even if it’s just a walk), and feed yourself well.


Diabetes in Midlife and Cognitive Change Over 20 Years.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 2014; 161 (11): 785