A few years ago, one of my patients was having a hard time keeping her blood glucose levels within the range I recommended for her.
I advised her to keep track of her blood sugar levels in a daily log—a simple solution that proved to be extremely beneficial to her in the years to come.
She was able to consistently keep her levels in a healthy range and found that she had more energy than ever!
I always advise my patients on the importance of keeping their blood sugar at reasonable levels.It is becoming more evident each day that our blood sugar levels are a vital element to our health, and if they’re not managed properly, our health can take a serious turn for the worse. Recent studies, for example, have shown that high blood sugar levels could actually be related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia where the death of brain cells leads to impaired cognitive function and memory loss. This disease can affect one’s daily thinking and behavior processes—it tends to get worse over time. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases.Many people relate Alzheimer’s to old age. While it is true that most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are 65 years of age or older, there are cases where people develop what is called “early onset Alzheimer’s,” which is diagnosed from 40 to 50 years of age.
What Is High Blood Sugar?
High blood sugar levels, 160 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or above your blood glucose target, mainly occur when there is an imbalance between food, medication, and exercise. It can also be triggered if you are extremely sick or under a lot of stress. High blood sugar can lead to dehydration and cause issues to the kidney, brain, and arteries.
How Is High Blood Sugar Linked to Alzheimer’s?
A recent study has linked high blood sugar levels to the protein beta-amyloid—when clumped together, it can cause plaque in the brain. Because the protein is sticky, the small clumps will block daily cell-to-cell signals to the brain. The clog can also trigger immune system cells that cause direct inflammation and kill other cells, which can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s.
Another recent study was conducted on mice that had Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. When the researchers injected glucose into the bloodstreams of the mice, they discovered that their brains produced higher levels of beta-amyloid. When their glucose intake was doubled, the result was a 20% increase in beta-amyloid levels, compared to the mice that had normal glucose levels.
The second part to the study involved mice that were much older than the original test subjects. The study revealed that when the blood sugar levels increased in the older mice, their brain cell activity increased, which actually stimulated more beta-amyloid, thereby increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
A closer look by the research team found that there were openings called KATP channels, which played a direct role in increasing beta-amyloid. These channels sit on the brain cells and close when the glucose levels rise too high. When this occurs, neurons are more prone to fire off.
Normally when neurons fire off, they send viable information to the brain; this is especially important for memory, learning, and thinking. However, too much neuron firing can actually increase beta-amyloid, which can increase the chances of plaque forming and also increase the chances of Alzheimer’s developing.
Researchers concluded that the KATP channels had a direct link to the glucose levels, which are related to brain cell activity and the rate at which beta-amyloid is produced. The research team is also looking into the relation of how high glucose levels may actually interfere with different parts of the brain and how they work together.
Treating High Blood Sugar Levels
There are three important ways you can prevent high levels of blood sugar:
Insulin shots are one of the most common ways to prevent high blood sugar levels; you can inject insulin on your own, or have your doctor do it for you. You have to be careful though. Insulin injections can take about four hours to take effect and if you inject too much, it can lead to hyperglycemia.
Exercising is an important factor to lower your blood sugar levels; walking will help stretch your muscles and keep you physically fit.
3. Drink water
When the body has high blood sugar levels, it will try to flush out the excess sugar through urination. If you keep drinking water, you will be properly hydrated and the flushing process will speed up. As a result, this will lower your blood sugar levels at a quicker rate.
Did you know that if you properly take care of your mind at a younger age, you can reduce your chances of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s later on in life? Here are a few prevention tips you should keep in mind:
1. Healthy diet
Just like the rest of the body, the brain needs essential nutrients to function properly. Eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy fats will help the brain receive those nutrients. You can also take certain supplements to complement the diet—folic acid, vitamin B, vitamin D, and magnesium have all been proven to improve brain health.
2. Quality sleep
If you are sleep deprived, your brain will have difficulties with problem solving, thinking, and retaining information. It is critical for your brain to get that deep-sleep effect for memory formation and retention. Try to refrain from taking naps on a daily basis, as it can cause insomnia down the road. The best way to get a good night’s rest is to create a sleeping schedule and stick with that schedule. You will see a difference in the retention process.
3. Stress management
Heavy stress actually shrinks a key memory area located in the brain called the hippocampus. It can also decrease cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. To get rid of stress, work on your breathing techniques, schedule fun activities that will relax your body, and embrace peace in your life. If you come to terms with your stress and find ways to manage it, it won’t have the same effect on you as it used to.
“How to Bring Down High Blood Sugar Levels,” Diabetes.co.uk; http://www.diabetes.co.uk/how-to/bring-down-high-blood-sugar-levels.html, last accessed May 12, 2015.
Paddock, C., “Could high blood sugar be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease?” Medical News Today web site, May 7, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/293581.php.
“Lows & Highs: Blood Glucose Levels,” Canadian Diabetes Association web site; http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/blood-glucose-insulin/lows-highs-blood-glucose-levels, last accessed May 12, 2015.
Smith, M. et al., “Alzheimer’s and Dementia Prevention,” HelpgGuide.org; http://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia/alzheimers-and-dementia-prevention.htm, last accessed May 12, 2015.
“What Is Alzheimer’s?” Alzheimer’s Association web site; http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp, last accessed May 12, 2015.
“More about plaques,” Alzheimer’s Association web site; https://www.alz.org/braintour/plaques.asp, last accessed May 12, 2015.