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Diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s

The evidence has been accumulating for some time that diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.


The evidence has been accumulating for some time that diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that those who have pre-diabetes may be at an increased risk as well.  Prediabetes is defined as having blood sugars higher than normal, but not high enough for diabetes.  If you are fasting glucose between 100 mg/dl and 125 mg/dl or an A1C between 5.7% and 6.4%, you are among the 79 million Americans who have pre-diabetes.  Since there are no clear symptoms of pre-diabetes, most whom have it  are unaware.   In this case ignorance is not bliss.  According to Tammy Scott, Ph.D. a scientist at Tufts’ HNRCA Nutrition and Neurocognition Laboratory, “hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in both diabetic and pre-diabetic states can promote inflammation in the lining of small blood vessels, leading to thickening and weakening of the vessel wall.  This type of cerebrovascular pathology plays a role in both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

The good news is that for most people, it is possible to lower their blood sugar. Studies show that a diet rich in whole fruits (blueberries, grapes, apples, pears, bananas and grapefruit may be the best) vegetables, whole grains and healthy protein, along with moderate exercise (30 minutes a day 5 days a week) and modest weight loss (5 – 7% of body weight) is effective at bringing blood sugars down.  The Harvard Health Letter reports that taking a walk after a meal (sound familiar!) and even taking short but frequent walking breaks – as brief as 2 minutes every half hour, can lower blood sugar.

So while moderate changes can translate into significant benefits, it is hard to get motivated about something you unaware of.  If you haven’t had you blood sugar checked in a while, talk to your doctor about getting it checked, the sooner the better.