Improving Cognitive Function in Type 2 Diabetes

Recently published research has revealed that type 2 diabetes is associated with worse performance on cognitive tests measuring abilities involved in the control of emotions. How can people with type 2 diabetes counteract the negative cognitive effects of the disease?

The research, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada is the first comprehensive statistical summary of available studies that examine the link between type 2 diabetes and a reduction of certain cognitive abilities known as executive functions. The executive functions inhibit habitual thinking patterns, knee-jerk emotional reactions and reflexive behaviors such as making impulse purchases or automatically following social cues.

"The types of behaviours that are recommended to help individuals control type 2 diabetes are all things that do not come naturally to most people," said Dr. Peter Hall, professor at the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo and senior author of the study. "Human beings have fairly reliable preferences for high-calorie foods and to resist medical routines that are inconvenient or time-consuming."

Improving Executive Function

The good news is that older adults can improve their executive function. The keys can be found in finding ways to be engaged in activities that stimulate cognitive function. These have been shown to strengthen parts of the brain responsible for executive function.

Methods to optimize the brain structures that support executive function include:

Aerobic exercise, which includes:

Cognitively challenging activities, which focuses on solving difficult puzzles and other problem-solving activities, such as those presented in the following links:

Of the two, Hall says the first is the more important: "Aerobic exercise has benefits to both the brain and the rest of the body simultaneously."

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