Later diagnosis of type 1 diabetes leads to accelerated aging

If you were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes later in life, you may be at greater risk for cognitive decline than those who were diagnosed in early childhood. A new study has found that people diagnosed with the disorder in later childhood showed more signs of early aging-related brain connectivity issues than those who received the diagnosis early on.

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Conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, the study was rare in that it followed people with childhood onset Type 1 diabetes throughout their lives, which only a few studies have done in this country so far. The participants included 66 adults between the ages of 32 and 58 who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as children.

The researchers expected to find that the participants who had been diagnosed earlier would have more severe cognitive problems as a result, as previous research had shown that early onset of diabetes is associated with cognitive difficulties. Instead, they observed the exact opposite phenomenon — those who received their diagnoses later showed weaker brain connectivity than those who were diagnosed as young children.

“Other studies have shown an association between earlier onset type 1 diabetes and cognitive difficulties, so we expected to find that people with earlier age of onset would have weaker connections between brain regions,” said study author John Ryan, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh. “But instead, we found that those who were diagnosed later in childhood had the weaker brain connections as they aged.”

Ryan added that the brain connectivity issues they observed were consistent with “a model of diabetes as accelerated aging.”

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