Oh great – more reason to worry. But if you’re worried about cognitive decline in diabetics, maybe we can find a light at the end of that very bleak tunnel.
The Effect of Diabetes on the Brain
An NIH study from 2017 is the first to find a direct correlation between the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and higher brain glucose levels. Another NIH agency is funding a study on the effect of “glycemic excursions” on cognition. But research is still in the early stages.
Correlating diabetes with cognitive outcomes paints a similar picture. The risk of cognitive decline in diabetics is 50% higher than in non-diabetics. And in some research, the risk of all-cause dementia is 2 to 2.5 times higher. Despite this, a study of type 2 diabetics on a 10-year program did demonstrate reduced brain atrophy.
Some Factors Contributing to Cognitive Decline in Diabetics
- Damage to small blood vessels
- Damage to nerve cells
- Changes in the way brain cells work in diabetics
- Unstable blood sugars—both high and low blood glucose levels contribute to brain issues
- Exercise your body—always first on the list. It can improve your brain function as well as your mood and physical health. And those elements are synergistic – they work together to improve each other.
- Exercise your mind—play games, explore new interests. Wake up your brain with new experiences.
- Exercise your spirit—cherish your friends and family, pursue your spiritual interests, and try a calming practice like regular prayer or meditation, journaling, or yoga (also a body exercise, so it’s a twofer!).
- Off-load your memory—find memory aids to eliminate some of the stress of having to remember so much.
- Stabilize your blood sugar. Easier to say than done, but there’s hope on the horizon. Research is ongoing to develop personalized nutrition based on predicting glycemic responses.
Cognitive decline in diabetics – in anyone – is a frightening prospect. But with the increase in both diabetic and aging populations, scientists are working hard to find solutions. And there are some exciting glimmers of hope.