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Recurrent diabetic ketoacidosis and cognitive function among older adults with type 1 diabetes: findings from the Study of Longevity in Diabetes

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious complication of diabetes. DKA is associated with poorer cognition in children with type 1 diabetes (T1D), but whether this is the case in older adults with T1D is unknown. Given the increasing life expectancy in T1D, understanding the role of DKA on brain health in older adults is crucial. We examined the association of DKA with cognitive function in 714 older adults with T1D from the Study of Longevity in Diabetes. Participants self-reported lifetime exposure to DKA resulting in hospitalization; DKA was categorized into 0 hospitalization, 1 hospitalization or ≥2 hospitalizations (recurrent DKA). Global and domain-specific cognition (language, executive function/psychomotor speed, episodic memory and simple attention) were assessed. The association of DKA with cognitive function was evaluated via linear and logistic regression models. Twenty-eight percent of participants (mean age=67 years; mean age at diagnosis=28 years; average duration of diabetes=39 years) reported a lifetime history of DKA resulting in hospitalization (18.5% single DKA; 9.7% recurrent DKA). In fully adjusted models, those with recurrent DKA had lower global cognitive function (β=-0.13; 95% CI -0.22 to 0.02) and lower scores on the executive function/psychomotor speed domain (β=-0.34; 95% CI -0.51 to 0.17). Individuals with recurrent DKA were also more likely to have the lowest level of cognitive function on the executive function/psychomotor speed domain (defined as 1.5 SD below the population mean; OR=3.26, 95% CI 1.43 to 7.42). Among 714 older adults with T1D, recurrent DKA was associated with lower global cognitive function, lower scores on the executive function/psychomotor speed domain and 3.3 times greater risk of having the lowest level of cognitive function in our sample on the executive function/psychomotor speed domain. These findings suggest that recurrent DKA may negatively impact the brain health of older patients with T1D and highlight the importance of DKA prevention.

Authors: Lacy ME; Gilsanz P; Eng CW; Beeri MS; Karter AJ; Whitmer RA

BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2020 06;8(1).

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