Nearly 26% of adults age 65 and older live with diabetes. The condition occurs when the body doesn’t process insulin properly. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and it is the result of the pancreas not being able to produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose at normal levels. The body is said to become insulin resistant. Diet and lifestyle often contribute to this form of diabetes.
Is there a Link between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease?
Research showing a potential link between Alzheimer’s and insulin-resistance continues to mount. Studies have found that seniors with diabetes have lower cognitive function and are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. It has led some scientists to go as far as saying that Alzheimer’s should be classified as type 3 diabetes.
While they don’t yet understand the connection between diabetes and dementia, doctors do believe that high blood sugar has a negative impact on the brain. It creates inflammation in neurological pathways which causes arteries in the brain to harden and narrow. When the necessary amount of blood can’t reach brain cells, an older adult’s cognitive abilities may decline.
Excess glucose also limits the brain’s ability to break down fatty membranes. These proteins clump together and form plaques and tangles that are believed to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
6 Steps to Lower Your Risk for Diabetes and Alzheimer’s
While researchers largely agree that staying physically active and mentally engaged in hobbies and social activities likely helps prevent Alzheimer’s, older adults also need to work with their primary care physician to monitor to their blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association suggests the following tips to manage blood sugar:
- Follow the plate-method when planning healthy menus
- Work with your doctor to develop an exercise plan that includes 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels
- Stop smoking
- Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages to the amount recommended by your primary care physician
The good news in all of this research is that type 2 diabetes can often be controlled with lifestyle changes. By successfully controlling your blood sugar, you may in turn reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
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