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Long-term Glycemic Control and Dementia Risk in Type 1 Diabetes

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Individuals with type 1 diabetes have experienced an increase in life expectancy, yet it is unknown what level of glycemic control is ideal for maintaining late-life brain health. We investigated the association of long-term glycemic control with dementia in older individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Research design and methods

We followed 3,433 members of a health care system with type 1 diabetes, aged ≥50 years, from 1996 to 2015. Repeated measurements of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), dementia diagnoses, and comorbidities were ascertained from health records. Cox proportional hazards models were fit to evaluate the association of time-varying glycemic exposure with dementia, with adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, baseline health conditions, and frequency of HbA1c measurement.


Over a mean follow-up of 6.3 years, 155 individuals (4.5%) were diagnosed with dementia. Patients with ≥50% of HbA1c measurements at 8-8.9% (64-74 mmol/mol) and ≥9% (≥75 mmol/mol) had 65% and 79% higher risk of dementia, respectively, compared with those with <50% of measurements exposed (HbA1c 8-8.9% adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 1.65 [95% CI 1.06, 2.57] and HbA1c ≥9% aHR 1.79 [95% CI 1.11, 2.90]). By contrast, patients with ≥50% of HbA1c measurements at 6-6.9% (42-52 mmol/mol) and 7-7.9% (53-63 mmol/mol) had a 45% lower risk of dementia (HbA1c 6-6.9% aHR 0.55 [95% CI 0.34, 0.88] and HbA1c 7-7.9% aHR 0.55 [95% CI 0.37, 0.82]).


Among older patients with type 1 diabetes, those with majority exposure to HbA1c 8-8.9% and ≥9% had increased dementia risk, while those with majority exposure to HbA1c 6-6.9% and 7-7.9% had reduced risk. Currently recommended glycemic targets for older patients with type 1 diabetes are consistent with healthy brain aging.

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