New research suggests that people with high blood sugar levels, even those who do not have diabetes, may have an increased risk for developing cognitive impairment according to a study published in the journal Neurology.
Diabetes is a disease that involves having higher-than-normal blood glucose levels known as hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia occurs when your body can’t produce or respond to insulin. Your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Because of the reduced insulin production or resistance to the hormone, blood sugar levels tend to be high.
How Diabetes and Brain Fog Problem Starts
Diabetes begins with insulin and blood sugar. When we eat, glucose (sugar) is created during digestion. It enters the bloodstream where it’s joined by a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps glucose leave the bloodstream and enter the cells for energy. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain.
In diabetes, there is a problem with both glucose and insulin that leads to a host of problems. Glucose needs insulin to enter the cells, but in diabetes, either the body can’t make insulin, doesn’t make enough, or can’t use its insulin correctly. As a result, glucose remains in the bloodstream and accumulates. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) does extensive, system-wide damage. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a result of diet and medication, also causes damage. These blood sugar problems impair functioning in the brain and can cause brain fog and memory loss.
Blood sugar fluctuations affect neurotransmitter levels. High blood sugar increases serotonin and GABA, causing fatigue. Low blood sugar causes the brain to make more cortisol, glucagon, and adrenalin in an attempt to counteract hypoglycemia causes the stress to increase and concentrating and focusing become more difficult.
The fluctuations between blood sugar extremes can leave you feeling tired yet wired, and your brain can have a hard time adjusting to fluctuations.
In addition to the impact on neurotransmitters, fluctuating blood sugar leads to:
- Brain cell damage and degeneration
- Nerve damage
- Inflammation of the brain
- Injury to neurons due to insufficient glucose supply
When the brain is inflamed and impaired, functioning becomes difficult. Diabetes and brain fog disrupt life as make diabetes and memory loss.
Relationship between Diabetes and Memory Loss
Memory loss and general cognitive impairment, which are both symptoms of AD, may be connected to type 2 diabetes. Damage to the blood vessels is typical in people with diabetes. This damage can lead to cognitive problems and vascular dementia. These are often seen with symptoms of AD.
The results of one study show that AD is closely connected to insulin signalling and glucose metabolism in the brain. The brain contains insulin receptors. These structures recognize insulin which affects cognition and memory. When the insulin in your body is imbalanced, it increases your risk for AD. This imbalance can occur in people with type 2 diabetes.
Scientists also looked at how symptoms of metabolic syndrome affect memory. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Symptoms of the syndrome can include:
- Increased blood pressure
- High blood sugar levels
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Increased body fat especially around the waist
The study concluded that the connection between high levels of sugar and AD goes both ways. People with metabolic syndrome have a higher risk of developing AD. People with AD often develop hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.
These conclusions are reinforced by a review published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. Although researchers don’t know the full extent of the connection at this time, the link between insulin signalling and Alzheimer’s disease is clear.
Steps That Can Be Taken To Limit or Prevent Memory Loss
Switch to a wholesome diet based on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. You should also limit your intake of high-fat foods. This is known as “the Mediterranean diet.” This diet has been connected to a lower risk of chronic degenerative diseases such as AD.
Add more omega-3 fatty acids your diet. Omega-3s may help improve heart health and prevent cognitive decline.
Treatments from traditional medicine have had positive results in managing the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Active compounds such as berberine or the ones found in ginseng and bitter melon may help with glucose and lipid metabolism.
So far, there isn’t a cure for diabetes, nor is there a known way to end brain fog and memory loss that diabetes can cause. However, there are things you can do to improve your blood sugar and minimize the effects of brain fog.
- Lifestyle changes are vital to improving blood sugar control.
- Increase physical activity, exercising almost every day for at least 30 minutes
- Reduce processed foods, including sugar
- Increase healthy foods (vegetables, proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats)
- Drink water to hydrate your brain
- Sleep seven- to eight hours per night.
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