Severe Hypoglycemia and Cognitive Function in Older Adults With Type 1 Diabetes: The Study of Longevity in Diabetes (SOLID)

Diabetes Care. 2020 Mar;43(3):541-548. doi: 10.2337/dc19-0906. Epub 2019 Dec 27.


Objective: In children with type 1 diabetes (T1D), severe hypoglycemia (SH) is associated with poorer cognition, but the association of SH with cognitive function in late life is unknown. Given the increasing life expectancy in people with T1D, understanding the role of SH in brain health is crucial.

Research design and methods: We examined the association between SH and cognitive function in 718 older adults with T1D from the Study of Longevity in Diabetes (SOLID). Subjects self-reported recent SH (previous 12 months) and lifetime history of SH resulting in inpatient/emergency department utilization. Global and domain-specific cognition (language, executive function, episodic memory, and simple attention) were assessed. The associations of SH with cognitive function and impaired cognition were evaluated via linear and logistic regression models, respectively.

Results: Thirty-two percent of participants (mean age 67.2 years) reported recent SH and 50% reported lifetime SH. Compared with those with no SH, subjects with a recent SH history had significantly lower global cognition scores. Domain-specific analyses revealed significantly lower scores on language, executive function, and episodic memory with recent SH exposure and significantly lower executive function with lifetime SH exposure. Recent SH was associated with impaired global cognition (odds ratio [OR] 3.22, 95% CI 1.30, 7.94) and cognitive impairment on the language domain (OR 3.15, 95% CI 1.19, 8.29).

Conclusions: Among older adults with T1D, recent SH and lifetime SH were associated with worse cognition. Recent SH was associated with impaired global cognition. These findings suggest a deleterious role of SH on the brain health of older patients with T1D and highlight the importance of SH prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / complications
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / complications
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / complications
  • Hypoglycemia / epidemiology*
  • Hypoglycemia / pathology
  • Hypoglycemia / psychology*
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index