High Blood Sugar Connected with Memory Loss

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This health e-letter concerns some recent news on the diabetes front. According to Japanese researchers, having diabetes will up your risk for dementia. Diabetes has been linked to cognitive problems before, but this new study shows that even pre-diabetes (blood sugar levels that are elevated higher than normal) raises the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The Japanese researchers followed 1,017 men and women, age 60 and older. Each participant took a glucose test to determine if they were diabetic or pre-diabetic. The researchers then followed them for an average of 11 years. Two hundred and thirty-two of the participants subsequently developed dementia.

Now here’s where the study gets interesting. Out of the 150 who had diabetes, 41 developed dementia. Compare this to 115 of the 559 people without diabetes. For those with pre-diabetes — 308 people — about 25% developed dementia. This is evidence enough that high blood sugar causes problems with cognitive function over time, but the researchers also discovered that having high levels of sugar only two hours after taking glucose was linked to dementia.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 79 million people have pre-diabetes. Obesity is major factor that increases the risk of diabetes.

The researchers don’t know exactly why diabetes increases the risk of dementia. One suggestion is that diabetes contributes to vascular disease, in turn affecting the flow of oxygen to the brain and other organs. And if your blood vessels are not allowing enough oxygen to get to your brain, you can start to show signs of dementia.

The best health advice is to manage your blood sugar by exercising and eating a healthy diet. Avoid adding foods high on the glycemic index such as white bread, white rice and white potatoes to your daily meals.