High blood sugar might impact your memory
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 of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In fact, a panel of specialists at a 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,” says Dr. Darren Gitelman, senior medical director of the Advocate Memory Center in Park Ridge, Ill. “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.
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.”
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, attending a social event, or even learning an instrument or a new language,” Gitelman says.
About the Author
Kristen Johnson, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She previously worked as a speechwriter and staffer on Capitol Hill. She enjoys running marathons, good coffee and exploring Chicago’s many neighborhoods.