Diabetes and cognitive decline: What it is and what to do about it

November 10, 2022

Take a moment to look around the next time you’re at a mall, grocery store, sporting event, or park. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11.3 percent or more of the people you visit have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The CDC also notes that a startling 1 in almost 4 American adults (38.0 percent) fulfill the criteria for prediabetes.

Therefore, this is not a unique problem, and the consequences of persistently high blood sugar—as seen in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes—go far beyond increased hunger, thirst, and frequency of urination. By the way, all of these are signs of hyperglycemia, which is high blood sugar.

You may experience problems with focus, memory, and general brain health. However, diabetes the downstream effects of on cognition are not always unavoidable. It is possible to take steps to mind your own business even if you have type 2 diabetes or may be at risk for developing it.

Your comprehensive guide on the relationship between the brain and blood sugar, as well as advice on how to eat, move, and change your lifestyle, is provided below.

Diabetic patients are more likely to experience cognitive impairment

The precise cause(s) of this may still be unknown; however, it may be related to both diabetes itself and other chronic illnesses like high blood pressure or aging.

Additionally, those who have diabetes are more likely to develop chronic illnesses. If diabetes is poorly managed or not controlled by medicine, diet, and exercise, it may also affect the eyes, heart, kidneys, brain, and other organs.

The same factor that puts diabetics at risk for limb problems also appears to be the link between diabetes and dementia.

The primary energy source for the brain is sugar. However, having high blood sugar levels, like in the case of diabetes, can stress the brain and harm it.

Diabetes can harm the nerves and blood arteries in the brain, just as it can harm the nerves in the heart, eyes, and extremities.

Think about how the brain receives oxygen-rich blood from blood arteries. If these blood arteries are damaged, it may impact the amount of blood that gets to the brain and, over time, cause cognitive impairment. Additionally, the brain’s functioning depends heavily on insulin, and brain insulin resistance can impair our cognitive abilities.

As a result of this damage, the likelihood of developing more severe neurodegenerative conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia rise. Memory and cognitive ability may also deteriorate.

The CDC confirms that reduced blood flow to the brain can result in nerve damage that causes memory and learning issues, mood changes, and, in the long run, conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. This is similar to how insufficient blood flow to one’s toes can necessitate an amputation, for example. The CDC warns that either too high or too low blood sugar levels might cause this, so we should all aim for the happy medium.

What you can do to safeguard your brain

It’s not too late to change your lifestyle and make better decisions to keep your mental acuity, even if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or have already been diagnosed with the disease.

Early adoption of healthy habits can help safeguard your brain against cognitive deterioration.

Visit your health care provider frequently

Many people who have prediabetes or even diabetes are completely unaware of it. More frequently than you might imagine, people have raised blood sugar levels without being aware of it.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 8 million Americans meet the criteria but remain undiagnosed. If you don’t see your doctor frequently, it might be difficult to get a diagnosis or even recognize that something might be “wrong.”

Check your blood sugar levels frequently

If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to closely adhere to your doctor’s recommended treatment schedule and keep track of your blood sugar levels outside of sessions.

Cognitive impairment is linked to poor blood sugar management.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels and maintaining them as close to your target range as you can is thus one of the best strategies to preserve your brain if you have diabetes. This is essential for controlling diabetes and avoiding problems such as cognitive deterioration.

Protein and fiber should be included in each meal and snack

According to Ehsani, consuming carbohydrates alongside foods high in protein and fiber can assist in maintaining blood sugar equilibrium.

Scoop up a bowl of wholewheat noodles with chicken and marinara sauce rather than plain white spaghetti with Alfredo. Alternatively, when you visit the vending machine at 3 p.m., select the bag of almonds rather than the package of sour gummies.

The conclusion

Although it has been demonstrated that having type 2 diabetes or prediabetes increases the risk of cognitive impairment later in life, some healthy habits can work as a “helmet” to shield your mind and its faculties.