Physical, Cognitive Performance Linked in Diabetes Patients, Research Shows

Tingting Liu studies physical performance and cognitive function in diabetes patients to find ways to improve their care.
Photo by University Relations

Tingting Liu studies physical performance and cognitive function in diabetes patients to find ways to improve their care.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Tests of physical performance, especially walking speed and grip strength, have been found to correlate with cognitive function in patients with diabetes, a discovery that could help identify signs of dementia earlier.

Tingting Liu, assistant professor of nursing in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, and colleagues published the findings this week in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

“Examining association of tests of physical performance with cognitive functioning in a diabetic population is important,” Liu said. “This could identify patients with preclinical dementia who are otherwise missed.” Liu added that this finding supports the practice of encouraging diabetes patients to exercise, and it underscores the importance of offering multidisciplinary health care for diabetes patients.

The researchers used data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, or CHARLS. This study collects a wide range of health and demographic data on Chinese adults over age 45. They used statistical analysis techniques to look for associations between tests of physical performance — including grip strength, walking speed, chair stands and balance — with measures of cognitive functioning, such as figure drawing, word recall and the TICS-10, a measure of mental orientation and attention. The researchers found that walking speed was associated with figure drawing, and grip strength was associated with episodic memory and TICS-10 score.

Liu explained that with previous research showing that exercise can improve cognition in adults with diabetes, this discovery suggests that targeting physical performance in these individuals could also improve the associated cognitive skills.

Liu worked with colleagues at the University of Georgia, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Sichuan Academy of Medical Sciences and Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

About the College of Education and Health Professions: The College of Education and Health Professions offers advanced academic degrees as well as professional development opportunities and learning communities in service to the education and health systems of Arkansas and beyond. The college provides the education and experiences for a range of professional roles, ranging from community mental health counselors to school teachers and leaders. Programs in adult and higher education, along with educational technology and sport management, and human resource and workforce development, offer a broad range of options. In addition to education-related opportunities, the college prepares nurses, speech-language pathologists, health educators and administrators, recreation professionals, rehabilitation counselors and human performance researchers.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Tingting Liu, Assistant Professor of Nursing
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3904, tl023@uark.edu

Camilla Shumaker, director of science and research communications
University Relations
479-575-7422, camillas@uark.edu

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