People who developed diabetes even in old age were also more likely to have areas of brain damage. Conversely, there were not many effects from high blood pressure that developed in old age, said Roberts."
New York, March 21 - Diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age increase risks of brain damage which leads to thinking problems and dementia in later life, a study claims.
Potentially, if we can prevent or control diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age, we can prevent or delay the brain damage that occurs decades later and leads to memory and thinking problems and dementia, explained Rosebud O Roberts of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
The researchers defined middle age as age 40 to 64 and old age as age 65 and older.
For the study, the thinking and memory skills of 1,437 people with an average age of 80 were evaluated.
The participants had either no thinking or memory problems or mild memory and thinking problems called mild cognitive impairment.
They then had brain scans to look for markers of brain damage that can be a precursor to dementia.
Participants' medical records were then reviewed to determine whether they had been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure in middle age or later.
The researchers found that compared to people who did not have diabetes, people who developed diabetes in middle age had total brain volume an average of 2.9 percent smaller.
In the hippocampus area of the brain, which is involved in memory forming, the volume was four percent smaller, the research showed.
They were also twice as likely to have thinking and memory problems, said the study.
Compared to people who did not have high blood pressure, people who developed high blood pressure in middle age were twice as likely to have areas of brain damage.
People who developed diabetes even in old age were also more likely to have areas of brain damage. Conversely, there were not many effects from high blood pressure that developed in old age, said Roberts.
The study appeared in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.