Getting the news that you or a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s can be life-changing. A frustration for both seniors and their families is the lack of solid science about the cause of the disease. Recent studies linking diabetes and Alzheimer’s, however, seem to be gaining ground.
Nearly 26% of adults age 65 and older have diabetes. One out of eight older adults lives with Alzheimer’s disease. What researchers are trying to determine is if there is a link between the two.
Is There a Link between Diabetes and Dementia?
Since 2005, the link between dementia and insulin-resistance has grown stronger. It’s even led some researchers to begin referring to Alzheimer’s by a new name: Type 3 diabetes.
These studies seem to indicate seniors with diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
While researchers don’t yet understand the cause-and-effect between diabetes and dementia, they do know that high blood sugar can have a negative impact on brain health.
Type 2 diabetes results when the body doesn’t make the right amount of insulin or doesn’t process it properly. As blood sugar in the body rises, it puts more stress on blood vessels, including those in the brain. This causes arteries in the brain to harden and narrow.
If an adequate supply of blood doesn’t reach the brain, an older adult’s cognitive abilities may decline. They may develop problems with memory or have trouble completing daily tasks independently.
Excess glucose (sugar) also limits the brain’s ability to break down fatty membranes. When these clump together, they form plaques and tangles that are believed to contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Lower an Older Adult’s Risk for Diabetes
While there is no definitive way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, researchers believe lifestyle is the key.
According to the American Diabetes Association, you can lower your risk for diabetes by:
- Using the plate-method to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Get 150 combined minutes of exercise each week. Most physicians recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
- Work with your family physician to monitor and manage cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit alcoholic beverages to just a few times a week or less.
Successfully controlling blood sugar may help seniors prevent or delay the onset of dementia allowing them to live healthier, more active lives.
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