Medical Technology

Diabetes Plus Hypertension Worsen Brain Structure, Function

The most important takeaways

  • According to brain imaging and other cognitive tests, those who suffer from diabetes have poorer overall cognitive and brain health.

  • People who have diabetes and Hypertension have poorer brain and cognitive health than those who have only one of these diseases.

What Matters

  • The findings of the study suggest that preventing both hypertension and diabetes could delay structural brain changes, cognitive decline, and dementia.

  • Clinicians must be more focused on understanding the signs that brain structure changes are observed. This could aid in determining the progress of dementia in people suffering from diabetes.

Study Design

  • Study of a cross-sectional sample of 38,918 people in the UK Biobank enrolled between 2006 and 2010, and who then underwent an MRI scan as part of their UK Biobank participation, including 2043 individuals with diabetes.

  • Participants also completed seven measures of cognitive function.

  • The study excluded those who had a history of neurological or related disorders.

Key Results

  • After adjustment for potential confounding factors like cardiovascular disease, people with diabetes had significantly worse brain appearances on MRI.

  • Total brain volume and total grey matter volume of people with diabetes were both decreased by around 10%-20% compared to those without diabetes.

  • Diabetes sufferers were significantly less efficient on five of the seven tests for cognitive function after adjusting fully.

  • The total grey matter volume in people with diabetes and hypertension was significantly lower than those who have diabetes only. Their total brain volume was also decreased in comparison to those with diabetes only, but the difference was insignificant.

  • People with diabetes and hypertension had a lower score on cognitive-function tests. These tests included the symbol-digit substitution test as well as reaction time tests.


  • The UK Biobank had a low response rate to recruitment which could have led to selection bias.

  • The UK Biobank relies on self-reported information for certain medical diagnoses which could result in misclassification.

  • The study was based on observational data and therefore cannot be read as causal conclusions.


This is a synopsis of a preprint study conducted by Medscape authors from the University of Oxford & University College London on MedRxiv. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed. contains the full text of this study.

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