New Study Underscores Alzheimer's Association's Call For Americans To "Maintain Your Brain"

Alzheimer's Association
Monday, 23 February 2004

A study published online by the British Medical Journal ( finds that women with type 2 diabetes suffer greater cognitive decline than women without diabetes and have worse cognitive function. The researchers consider cognitive decline an intermediate stage prior to dementia. Women not using any medication to treat their diabetes had the greatest odds of poor performance compared with women without diabetes.

"The Alzheimer's Association's 'Maintain Your Brain' program recommends that everyone, especially Baby Boomers, pay attention to their medical numbers including cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels," said William Thies, Ph.D., the Alzheimer's Association's vice president for Medical and Scientific Affairs. "A healthy lifestyle to reduce risk from heart disease and diabetes may also help prevent Alzheimer's disease. This study is another piece of evidence in support of that recommendation," Thies said.

Americans Asked to "Maintain Your Brain"

The Alzheimer's Association urges Baby Boomers and all Americans to "Maintain Your Brain." There is increasing evidence that changes in lifestyle and health habits such as those that help the heart exercising, eating properly, and controlling blood sugar levels, weight, cholesterol and blood pressure may also benefit the brain. The Alzheimer's Association will help Americans understand what is now known about the benefits of a healthy brain and its potential for reducing risk for Alzheimer's disease.

"Healthy aging is a process that should begin sooner rather than later in life in order to remain healthy of body and mind for as long as possible," Thies said. "There is increasing evidence that Alzheimer's disease begins in the brain many years before we see symptoms."

"When we ask Americans to 'Maintain Your Brain,' we're also asking them to learn what we know about Alzheimer's disease, understand the great progress made by the medical research community, and join us in advocating for a renewed commitment to research and improved care for those with Alzheimer's disease," Thies added.

Currently, it is estimated that there are 4.5 million people in the United States with Alzheimer's disease. By 2030, when the entire Baby Boom generation is over 65, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's is projected to increase 70 percent, with an estimated 7.7 million people affected.

About the Study

The researchers interviewed 18,999 women aged 70-81 who were taking part in the nurses' health study in the United States between 1995 and 2003. The women were tested for cognitive function and cognitive decline over a two-year period. 16, 596 women completed both the baseline and 2-year follow-up assessments.

Assessments included a battery of tests including a telephone interview to determine cognitive status, plus tests of memory and verbal fluency.

At the start of the study, women with type 2 diabetes performed worse on all cognitive tests than women without diabetes. The odds of poor cognitive performance were 50 percent higher for women who had diabetes for 15 years or more.

In the study group, women with diabetes had higher prevalence of several other conditions that have been linked to increased risk of cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer's, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and depression.

For more information, or to contact Alzheimer's Association, see their website at:

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