DETROIT (WWJ) – New research finds more reasons to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure in check, especially in middle age.

People who develop Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure in middle age appear more likely to suffer brain damage that can contribute to dementia as they age, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

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Diabetes might actually shrink the brain over a long period of time, reducing the size of an area that plays an important role in short- and long-term memory.

“Potentially, if we can prevent or control diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age, we can prevent or delay the brain damage that occurs decades later and leads to memory and thinking problems and dementia,” said study author and Mayo Clinic epidemiologist Rosebud Roberts M.B., Ch.B.

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Diabetes and high blood pressure also both seem to increase a person’s risk of mini-strokes and other damage to the blood vessels that feed the brain, according to the findings.

“People who developed diabetes even in old age also were more likely to have areas of brain damage. Conversely, there were not many effects from high blood pressure that developed in old age,” Roberts says. “Overall, our findings suggest that the effects of these diseases on the brain take decades to develop and show up as brain damage and lead to symptoms that affect their memory and other thinking skills. In particular, diabetes has adverse effects regardless of the age at which diabetes develops.”

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Bottom line: Reduce your risk for type two and high blood pressure, and if you already have either or both, limit the impact on your brain with diet, exercise and medication.