High blood sugar could put you at increased risk for this
According to the American Heart Association, 23% of Americans have metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. Metabolic syndrome occurs when people are overweight and have high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and/or blood sugar.
Over time, this can lead to multiple health problems, including an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. In fact, a panel of specialists at a recent Society for Neuroscience meeting reported that the risk of developing dementia increases twofold in people who have diabetes or unregulated blood sugar.
“It’s not just that high blood sugar increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Dr. Darren Gitelman, senior medical director of the Advocate Memory Center in Park Ridge, IL. “There is a complex set of factors in a patient with diabetes or metabolic syndrome.”
Diabetes increases your risk of vascular disease, which can include damage to the circulatory system in your brain. This kind of damage increases your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and can separately contribute to vascular or stroke-related dementia. That’s not to mention the problems that poor blood sugar control can cause in the brain’s processing abilities. To find out if you’re at risk for developing diabetes, take this brief assessment.
Beyond the impact of unregulated blood sugar, certain lifestyle factors can also play a major role in determining your risk for Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.
“Sleep deprivation can also lead to overeating, which may also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or diabetes. Furthermore, both Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes may disrupt sleep, which leads to a vicious cycle for people struggling with one or both conditions,” Gitelman says.
“However, it’s important to note that treating these problems alone will not eliminate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” he says continued. “But it may make it less likely that you will develop the disorder.”
To learn more about sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing for short periods, take this brief assessment.
So what can we do about it?
Dr. Gitelman highlights the importance of lifestyle factors such as regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol use and increasing your mental engagement.
“Increasing mental engagement could be anything from working on a puzzle, to visiting a museum, to attending a social event, or even to learning an instrument or a new language,” Gitelman said.
In recent years, improving lifestyle factors have shown such promise for brain health that the Alzheimer’s Association is supporting a large national study, the U.S. Pointer Trial, to evaluate the potential for these factors to reduce the risk of dementia. Advocate Aurora Health, together with Rush, will be part of the Chicagoland site for this national trial that includes 4 other sites around the country. The trial will be particularly focusing on individuals with higher than normal blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and family history of memory problems that may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
“While much remains unknown, we’re working hard to determine how we can help further reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” Gitelman says.
About the Author
Kristen Johnson, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager with Advocate Aurora Health. She previously worked as a speechwriter and staffer on Capitol Hill. She enjoys running marathons, good coffee and exploring Chicago’s many neighborhoods.