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Diabetes Increases Risk for Memory Problems

A new study suggests that diabetes is a significant risk factor for a type of memory problem that doctors call “amnestic mild cognitive impairment.” While occasionally forgetting names or misplacing objects are signs of normal forgetfulness, continual forgetfulness may be a sign of amnestic mild cognitive impairment, which is considerably more serious, experts say.

Amnestic mild cognitive impairment is thought to represent a transitional stage between normal memory and thinking and the impairment seen with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Jose A. Luchsinger, from Columbia University in New York, and colleagues note in the Archives of Neurology for April.

In an earlier study, the researchers had tied diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In their latest study, they focused on the possible link with mild cognitive impairment, especially "amnestic MCI."

Their study involved 918 subjects, older than 65 years, who had no evidence of cognitive dysfunction at the outset. Cognitive testing and physical examinations were performed at the start of the study and then again every 18 months.

During an average of about 6 years, 160 subjects developed amnestic MCI.

Diabetes, which was present in nearly 24 percent of the subjects, was associated with a 1.5-fold increased risk of developing amnestic MCI, the team reports.

These results "provide further support to the potentially important independent role of diabetes" in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, they conclude.

Archives of Neurology, April 2007.

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