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Physical, Cognitive Performance Linked in Diabetes Patients, Research Shows

by | Nov 12, 2018 | Data Analytics, Research News

Tests of physical performance, especially walking speed and grip strength, have been found to correlate with cognitive function in patients with diabetes, a discovery that could help identify signs of dementia earlier.

Tingting Liu, assistant professor of nursing in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, and colleagues published the findings this week in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

“Examining association of tests of physical performance with cognitive functioning in a diabetic population is important,” Liu said. “This could identify patients with preclinical dementia who are otherwise missed.” Liu added that this finding supports the practice of encouraging diabetes patients to exercise, and it underscores the importance of offering multidisciplinary health care for diabetes patients.

The researchers used data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, or CHARLS. This study collects a wide range of health and demographic data on Chinese adults over age 45. They used statistical analysis techniques to look for associations between tests of physical performance — including grip strength, walking speed, chair stands and balance — with measures of cognitive functioning, such as figure drawing, word recall and the TICS-10, a measure of mental orientation and attention. The researchers found that walking speed was associated with figure drawing, and grip strength was associated with episodic memory and TICS-10 score.

Liu explained that with previous research showing that exercise can improve cognition in adults with diabetes, this discovery suggests that targeting physical performance in these individuals could also improve the associated cognitive skills.

Liu worked with colleagues at the University of Georgia, UT Health San Antonio, the Sichuan Academy of Medical Sciences and Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

About The Author

Camilla Shumaker is the director of science and research communications. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Arkansas in 2001. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the U of A. From 2010 through 2017, she was the director of communications in the U of A College of Engineering. Camilla can be reached at camillas@uark.edu or (479) 575-7422.

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