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Diabetes and Alzheimer’s: How Controlling Your Blood Sugar Can Reduce Your Alzheimer’s Risk

Sweets can sure taste great but they may not be so great for the brain. Uncontrolled blood sugars could possibly affect your cognition and your brain years before even before dementia symptoms show up. How controlling your blood sugars can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

For anyone who has had experience with a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you know firsthand how bad this form of dementia can be. You’ve likely witnessed your family members slowly lose their mind and all their memories as the brain slowly dies.

Diabetes can be equally as horrifying: amputations, kidney disease leading to dialysis in some, blindness, loss of feeling in your extremities, stubborn wounds, increased infections, and a high risk for strokes and heart attacks.

For some people, diabetes is something they have no control over getting – their pancreas just doesn’t make enough (or any) insulin. For most, however, a lifetime of eating too many carbohydrates causes the body to become desensitized to the way insulin breaks down blood sugars. Chronically high blood sugars can have a horrible effect on the body and two recent studies show that high blood sugars can affect the brain in drastic ways, adding to existing evidence that blood sugars can be quite a large risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and The Brain

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis conducted a study involving mice and raising their blood sugar to abnormally high levels. What they found was that the mice with high blood sugars also had an increased production of something called amyloid beta in the brain (4). Amyloid beta is a protein that in high concentrations that’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not for certain what causes the production of amyloid beta cells but according to the Alzheimer’s Association, these amyloid beta cells can bunch up together. The bunching of amyloid beta cells can block nerve endings from communicating together and for an unknown reason, start leading to brain tissue death (2).

A different study of 180 middle-aged people done at the University of Pittsburgh found that people with Type 1 diabetes had a far higher amount of brain lesions and slower cognitive function than people without the disease. The diabetic group had an average brain age of fifty while those who weren’t diabetic had an average age of 48 (3).

As always, and especially with Alzheimer’s, more research is always needed. But these aren’t the first studies that show that chronically sugar can be hard on the brain – and we already know it’s hard on the body. So what can you do about it?

Controlling Sugar and Reducing The Risk For Alzheimer’s

Exercise:
It helps the body have better insulin sensitivity and it also helps to keep your mind sharp.
Limit Processed Carbohydrates: Most people don’t need nearly the amount of carbohydrates that they need. Limit grains. If you need a cheat day for sweets, keep it to once a week.

Limit The Alcohol:
Alcohol is loaded with sugar. It also contributes to unnecessary extra calories and can decrease your insulin sensitivity.

Get Enough Sleep:
If exercising or eating better isn’t for you then maybe work on your sleep habits. The glymphatic system – part of our body that’s responsible for clearing metabolite wastes from the body – is more active at night. There is actually a sixty percent increase in interstitial space and exchange with cerebral spinal fluid. During this time waste products like amyloid beta cells are cleared from the brain in higher levels, reducing the amount of neurotoxic waste products in the brain.

Sources:

1. Chen, M., Christensen, D., Deane, R., Kang, H., Liao, Y., Liff, J., Nedergaard, M., O’Donnell., J., Takano, T., Xie, L. “Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance From The Adult Brain.” Science. 18 October 2013. Web. 2 June 2015.
2. N.a. “Alzheimer’s Disease and The Brain.” Alzheimer’s Association. Web. 2 June 2015.
3. Schmidt, R., Singh-Manoux, A. “Diabetes: A Risk Factor For Cognitive Impairment and Dementia?” Journal of Neurology. 6 May 2015. Web. 2 June 2015.
4. De Felice, Fernanda G. “Alzheimer’s Disease and Insulin Resistance: Translating Basic Science Into Clinical Applications.” The Journal Of Clinical Investigation. 1 February 2013. Web. 2 June 2015.

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