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The Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease Connection

Several studies have associated diabetes with an almost two-fold increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While this relationship isn’t completely understood, some evidence suggests that elevated insulin levels in the brain may cause more than 40% of all Alzheimer’s cases. High blood sugar levels also cause inflammation, which may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, diabetes is associated with an increased risk for vascular dementia (dementia caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain), which can accompany or precede Alzheimer’s disease. In people with type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by a combination of degeneration of neurons in the brain, impaired brain blood flow, and genetic predisposition. So, while many risk factors for Alzheimer’s are beyond one’s control, doctors and researchers agree: Preventing or controlling diabetes could help reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s what you can do to help reduce your risk:

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Avoid high-fat, processed, and high-glycemic foods.
  • If you’re overweight, lose 5 to 7% of your body weight. For a 200-pound person, that’s 10 to 14 pounds.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, five or more days per week.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, ask your doctor about getting a glucose tolerance test. Early identification of blood sugar dysregulation could help you get treatment sooner, and possibly ward off dementia progression.

Source: Journal of Alzheimers Disease

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