High Blood Sugar Linked to Dementia
Many studies over the past 15 years have established a link between chronic high blood sugar and Alzheimer’s disease/vascular dementia.
Research indicates that people with type 2 diabetes have at least twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This risk appears to increase dramatically when blood sugar and insulin levels are not well-controlled.
Even among persons not diagnosed with diabetes, a 2013 study funded by the National Institute of Health indicates that higher blood glucose levels may be a risk factor for dementia. In other words, things that cause blood sugar to spike are not only associated with diabetes and heart disease, but they are also bad for your brain.
How Sugar and Insulin Impact the Brain
- Oxidative stress Hyperglycemia—commonly referred to high blood sugar—basically speeds up the aging process by damaging the cardiovascular system. The same process that damages the cardiovascular system and causes heart disease also affects the brain. In addition, high blood sugar cues the body to produce insulin–too much insulin can also be a problem.
- Amyloid Plaques An insulin-degrading enzyme that clears out excess insulin in the brain also clears out amyloid. Research indicates that if this enzyme is busy clearing out excess insulin it is not available to clear the amyloid which could lead to build up of amyloid plaques in the brain.
- Tangles Amyloid accumulating as plaques in the brain are initially symptomless, and are accompanied by accumulations of tau protein (called tangles) and inflammation. A measurable increase in tau protein is associated with cognitive decline.
Chronic high blood sugar drives inflammation and makes it hard for the body to keep up with balancing blood sugar and insulin and clearing out amyloid. Thus, keeping insulin levels as low as possible and avoiding blood sugar spikes appears to be good for the brain as well as the body.
Controlling Blood Sugar to Prevent Dementia
Researchers are looking closely at the link between blood sugar and dementia. Authors of a 2015 Swedish study of 350,000 patients with Type 2 diabetes note that their study “indicates a potential for prevention of dementia with improved blood sugar control.”
What causes blood sugar levels to rise?
Consuming foods with easily accessible carbohydrates is the primary cause of high blood sugar.
At the top of the list of foods that cause blood sugar spikes are refined or processed foods such as:
- Soda pop and fruit juices
- Sweet treats like candy, cakes, cookies, pastries, etc.
- Foods made with refined flour like white bread, bagels and pasta
- White rice
Artificial sweeteners are also problematic. Studies indicate that they trigger an insulin release. Artificial sweeteners also negatively impact gut flora—healthy gut flora is important for stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Stress, illness, caffeine, dehydration, and changes in medications can also alter the body’s ability to manage blood sugar levels.
What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain
A brain- and heart-healthy lifestyle improves everyday mental function and will help keep blood sugar and insulin levels in check. This in turn reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia as well as diabetes and heart disease.
- Eat a brain-healthy diet that is nutrient-dense and high in fiber. Focus on whole, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, and grains, as well as unprocessed meats, fish, and fats—especially olive oil.
- Eliminate foods with added sugar and processed carbs.
- Include probiotics which are shown to be beneficial in managing blood sugar levels.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, and is also strongly linked to decreased brain function and dementia.
- Manage your blood pressure.
- Exercise to help manage your blood sugar levels.
|The information shared here is not intended as medical advice or treatment, but only to raise awareness of current research as well as possible treatment options you can explore in partnership with a qualified health care professional. The benefits and risks of all treatment options should be discussed with a qualified healthcare professional before implementation.|
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Arthur’s Residential Care
2437 Rice Street, Roseville, MN 55113
Arthur’s Residential Care offers premier memory care in beautiful private home settings for older adults who need 24-hour assistance. Our homes are located on wooded lots in quiet residential neighborhoods in Roseville and Shoreview, Minnesota. Each home is designed with six individual care suites, comfortable community spaces, and a rich staffing ratio of 1:3 or higher.
At Arthur’s we care for the whole person. We strive to go beyond just treating symptoms in order to meet each individual’s social, emotional, and spiritual needs. This is especially important in dementia care. With over 30 years’ experience in memory care, we are prepared to support the changing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people in all stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. We can also provide expert personalized care for clients with conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, MS, and ALS.