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Stress hormone in diabetes patients linked to mental decline

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Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol slows brain function in older patients with diabetes, raising the risk of mental decline, a study has suggested.

Regulating the levels of the stress hormone cortisol could hold off cognitive decline in patients with diabetes, scientists believe. The study showed older people with diabetes who had higher levels of stress hormones were more likely to suffer mental decline, said Dr Rebecca Reynolds, of Edinburgh University’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science.

She and her team studied more than 900 men and women aged 60-75 with Type 2 diabetes, which tends to affect over-40s and is linked to memory problems. “It may be that by regulating cortisol levels, we could help improve cognitive decline in patients with type 2 diabetes,” she said.

A range of tests were carried out on participants which assessed their memory and how quickly they were able to process information. Factors including education, cardiovascular disease, smoking and mood were taken into account. Blood samples were then taken to assess levels of cortisol.

The research is part of a study set up four years ago to discover why people with diabetes may have memory problems.

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