The Link Between Dementia and Diabetes

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The sharp rise in Alzheimer’s diagnosis is alarming. It’s on a similar trajectory as the obesity crisis in the late 1970’s and the type 2 diabetes crisis of the late 1980’s. It’s estimated that brain diseases are affecting 50 million people worldwide (and their families) and rising, with a staggering 10 million new cases each year. To clarify, Alzheimer’s is the predominant form of dementia, accounting for 60%-80% of cases and its effects on quality of life are confronting. But research is showing how the disease may significantly be minimised or prevented by addressing insulin resistance.

 If you’re living with diabetes, you know that insulin is the hormone at issue. Studies are showing that there are also strong links between high insulin, insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), aside from advanced age, having diabetes or prediabetes is the second biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, this research is showing that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 65% more for people with type 2 diabetes. That’s a high risk to carry in addition to an already complex disease and one to actively minimise for a healthier life as we age.

We’ve heard of Type 1 and Type 2 but there is now a proposed Type 3 diabetes. This Type 3 diabetes is the terminology being used to refer to this specific type of insulin resistance that only affects the brain and can cause Alzheimer’s. A simple way to explain this problem – glucose sugar builds up in the brain and the brain cannot get it out of the blood and into the cells. Insulin resistance in this instance is localised to the brain only.  

The five metabolic diseases have insulin resistance as the main underlying cause.Therefore anyone with these bio-markers are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s (diabetes, overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and triglycerides). Complicating your health, these metabolic diseases usually develop progressively with no acute or obvious symptoms.

Did you know that type 2 diabetes takes 10-13 years on average to develop? It is similar with Alzheimer’s. Brain function and structure gradually decline over time, often taking many years to reveal a diagnosis, so it’s important to take action with any of the above health conditions early.  

Metabolic syndrome affects health in many ways and has these effects on the brain. With the heightened risk of heart disease and stroke, it leads to damaged blood vessels and blood flow to the brain. Excess insulin alters the balance of brain neuro-chemicals. High blood sugar causes inflammation that can damage brain cells.The decline of poor glucose processing and insulin functioning coincides with other cognitive declines such as:

  • Memory loss – misplacing and unable to recall things
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Problem solving and planning challenges
  • Confusion – times and places
  • Loss of judgement
  • Visual and spatial challenges – reading and balance
  • Mood, behaviour and personality changes

What prevention strategies you can take against dementia?

Prevention is best. Start taking action now to minimise the risks of brain health diseases and improve your health overall, particularly if you have any of the metabolic health issues.

Our modern diet with its high sugar and processed foods presents one of the biggest risks, however, it is also a factor we can readily use for prevention. With a personalised programme aimed to specifically improve metabolic health and reverse insulin resistance, you’ll be able to lower any risks or prevent any onset of the disease.

The good news is that the risks of dementia can be greatly minimised by addressing a key underlying cause –insulin resistance – which mainly comes from constantly high blood glucose levels. Some of the actions you can take include:

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels annually and get a baseline to track
  • Include all of the oil-based vitamins especially vitamin E
  • Include omega 3 in your diet via fish oils and oily omega 3 foods
  • Include all coconut products, avocado’s, nuts and seeds
  • Eat whole real food (non-inflammatory foods)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Hydrate cells with water
  • Get into a healthy weight range
  • Do not smoke
  • Get good sleep – quantity and quality
  • Maintain life balance including stress levels and sleep

Sounds easy right? Some of these may sound scary, some you may be trying to do already. When you know the risks you’re actively minimising, it’s worth the focus and effort.

Know your risks of dementia through tracking your health

These are some baseline tests we recommend to track your risks over the years, in consultation with your medical practitioner:

  • Monitor HbA1c levels annually (blood test)
  • Self- test your own blood glucose levels with a home kit
  • Consider neurological tests, especially if it has been in the family, such as MRI’s (magnetic brain imaging).
  • Test for clusters of proteins (beta-amyloid plaques).

Before you jump on the next diet to reduce your sugar or lose weight fast, consider correct and specific guidance from an expert to improve your health, especially your metabolic health (weight, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease).

Interested in the research? One of the current brain disease experts is Dr David Perlmutter, neurologist and author of several books. You might like to check out one of his books ‘The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan’.

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