Background: diabetes and hypertension are two highly prevalent diseases in the old population. They are highly related such that comorbidity is common.
Objectives: to examine (i) the independent impact of the respective diseases on cognitive decline in very old age and (ii) the interactive impact of the two diseases on cognitive decline.
Subjects: 258 individuals (mean age = 83 years), all non-demented at baseline. Of these, 128 individuals (non-cases) were free from diabetes and hypertension, 92 individuals had a diagnosis of hypertension, 16 had a type 2 diabetes mellitus diagnosis without hypertension, and 22 had comorbid diabetes and hypertension.
Method: a population-based longitudinal study of ageing (The OCTO-Twin Study), including four measurement occasions 2 years apart. The Mini-Mental State Examination was used to measure general cognitive function. Data were analysed using SAS Proc Mixed multilevel modelling.
Results: longitudinal trajectories indicated a steeper decline in cognitive function related to diabetes but not related to hypertension. However, the results indicated greatest cognitive decline among persons with comorbid diabetes and hypertension.
Conclusions: it is concluded that comorbidity of diabetes and hypertension produce a pronounced cognitive decline. This finding emphasises the importance of prevention and treatment of those highly prevalent diseases in the old population.