Diabetes: A Danger to Cognitive Functioning


By Kacey Ingram

Nearly 50% of black women born in the year 2000 and beyond will likely develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Type 2 diabetes is determined upon the risk factors, or sometimes lifestyle behaviors, of an individual. This can include a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, and diet. Black women and men in poverty are not only at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, but are at risk for other conditions, including decrease in cognitive functioning and changes in brain structure. Although research on the association between diabetes and cognitive functioning is fairly new, this can prove to be a new condition in communities that are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes.

A study conducted by Gregory A. Dore demonstrated the association between diabetes and cognitive functioning in African-Americans and whites. This study aimed to look at diverse socioeconomic groups to demonstrate the true association also demonstrated with race. At the conclusion of the study, it was found that regardless of being above or below the poverty line, African-Americans still suffered from decreased cognitive functioning when compared to whites. Even African-Americans who did not suffer from diabetes but who were at risk showed lower cognitive functioning. Is it more than just diabetes that associates with cognitive functioning?

This study discussed that African-Americans in poverty were more likely to be associated with diabetes-related cognitive deficits. This may be due to a number of things for those who live in poverty, including less access to diabetes prevention education, lack of doctors and medical facilities, and lack of access to healthier food and safer exercise options. Poverty greatly increases the risk of not only developing diabetes, but other conditions that may arise. In this study, 53.7% of African-American participants were current smokers, and this habit alongside diabetes can create a multitude of health issues, such as hypertension and even a higher risk of cancer.

Another study conducted by Moheet, et al., demonstrates the impact of diabetes not only on cognitive function but on the actual structure of the brain. This study concluded that individuals with Type 1 diabetes are at risk for changes in brain development at an early age, whereas those with Type 2 diabetes are at risk for changes in brain structure at a much later age. This onset of changes to the brain can increase the risk of dementia, especially in older adults.

The risk of declining cognitive function in persons with diabetes can be greatly decreased through education and access to care. People living in poverty may not have higher education, which means they may be unaware of the dangers of smoking while being diabetic, or even how diet can greatly affect diabetes. Increasing their access to care means more opportunities to educate individuals on their risk for diabetes and how this affects the quality of their health. Brain structure and cognitive function are important to the development of all people, and the detriment can be prevented through diabetes education and a better care for those at higher risk, especially for black communities.


Kacey Ingram, MPH  is an education coordinator at a pregnancy resource center in Texas. She recently graduated with her Masters degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and received a Bachelors of Science in Health Promotion and Behavior at the University of Georgia. Her passion and purpose is to serve others to the best of her ability and in doing so allows her to give back to the kingdom of God! She is excited to be a part of this platform that allows her to share some of the knowledge she’s  learned along the way! You can follow her on Twitter @kaceye_ .

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