It’s already a known fact that diabetes can damage multiple organs, from the heart and the kidneys to the eyes and the brain. As high blood sugar levels can affect our brains, previously, we have seen experts establishing connections between diabetes and increased risk of dementia and stroke.

Now, a new study has found that changes in blood vessel activities in a diabetic individual’s brain might eventually result in drops in his/her cognitive functions. Patients might even find it difficult to perform day to day activities due to drops in their cognitive ability. The new study has been published in the widely read journal Neurology.

The said study was carried out by a team of researchers under Dr. Vera Novak. Dr. Novak teaches neurology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School. She along with her colleagues monitored a group of 65 elderly people. While around 50% in the group had type 2 diabetes, the remaining individuals didn’t have the disease.

After two years of following these people, researchers found that the ones with diabetes scored less in cognitive tests than what they scored two years back. The changes are taking place in the performance of individuals without diabetes, on the other hand, were negligible.

According to Dr. Novak, this decline was caused by changes occurring in the brains of the diabetic individuals. Diabetes might make a person’s blood vessels less responsive to signals in different parts of his/her brain.

Usually, the flexible blood vessels swell slightly for increasing flow of blood and oxygen to the most intensely active parts of the brain, for instance, the parts involved in higher reasoning when performing intellectual tasks, memory etc. However, in patients with uncontrolled diabetes the blood vessels often become less malleable, which in turn make them less responsive.

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Dr. Novak said that when we perform a task, let it be moving a finger or cognition, we need to increase the flow of blood to that particular part of our brain. Diabetes starts taking away this vasodilation ability we normally possess. As a result, diabetics are often left with much fewer resources for performing any task.

During the study, Dr. Novak and her team gauged the changes in the flexibility of the participants’ blood vessels. They found that while the flexibility declined in the diabetics, it remained almost the same in people who didn’t have the condition.