About 21 million Americans have diabetes, a disease that makes it hard for your body to convert sugar to energy. Six million people don’t even know they have it. There is a link between Type 2 diabetes (the most common kind of diabetes, associated with lack of exercise and being overweight) and Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia and top cause of death in our country), according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Uncontrolled diabetes equates to too much sugar in the blood, which easily damages critical organs, including the brain, with time. Many studies done over the years have suggested that those who have type 2 diabetes are at an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s later on in life.
Diabetes sets the stage for many complications, primarily damage to your blood vessels. It’s also a risk factor for vascular dementia, a type of dementia brought on by brain damage caused by reduced or blocked blood flow to the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Studies reveal that many people with diabetes show changes in the brain that put them at risk for both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Researchers have long since suspected that each condition feeds off the damage that has been caused by the other.
The link between the two originates from the complex ways in which type 2 diabetes alters the ability of the brain to utilize sugar (glucose) and respond to insulin. On top of that, diabetes may elevate the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, where people experience more cognitive and memory problems than would normally be found in the natural course of aging. Mild cognitive impairment is believed to precede or accompany Alzheimer’s disease.
Reducing Your Risk
There are things you can do to help yourself or a loved one lower the risk of the Alzheimer’s/diabetes combination. It’s critical to work with your doctor to either prevent diabetes or manage it in the most effective way so you avoid or reduce complications.
By doing this, you could avoid other complications, such as:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage, which may cause diabetic neuropathy (pain in feet or hands)
- Digestive problems (gastroparesis)
- Eye damage
- Follow recommendations from your health care team regarding the most appropriate plan for monitoring cholesterol level, blood pressure, and blood glucose.
- Eat healthy foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat milk and cheese.
- If you’re overweight, eat a healthy diet and exercise to lose extra pounds. Obesity can result in diabetes and several other health problems.
- Exercise for at least a half hour three to four times a week.
- Look at your feet every day and check for sores.
- Take prescribed medications on a set schedule and do not miss a dose.
Contact Divine Living Assistance
Here at Divine Living Assistance, our caregivers are trained in dementia and Alzheimer’s care, and are committed to doing all they can to ensure your loved one remains safe and comfortable in their own home. Please contact us to learn more.