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Can Diabetes Lead to Memory Loss?

Do you remember the good old days? Playing ball, make-believe doctors or playing pirates with your friends? Easy enough, right?

What if you forgot your name or your children’s names or where you live? Pretty scary, right? The first time I met someone with dementia, she could not remember her name.

One of the 12 modifiable risks, reported in the Lancet Commission, for dementia is diabetes. The highest modifiable risk is hearing loss. This article briefly discusses how memory loss occurs with diabetes.

Roughly 10% of the US population has diabetes with a million+ new cases diagnosed yearly. There are 2 types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. For the purpose of this article I will only talk about type 2 which is the most common, often called late/adult onset diabetes.

The mechanism for both is about the same, too much sugar in the blood.

If you have type 2 diabetes your pancreas produces insulin. But the body can’t use it they way it should. Over time the cells resist the over abundance of insulin. This in turn causes the pancreas to produce even more insulin. Damage to the nerve cells may occur as a result. It can also have long-term effects on the brain.

Understanding memory loss

As we age, we tend to forget some things. There is a difference between normal aging forgetfulness and the complex memory changes caused by dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

However, serious symptoms of memory loss can impact our ability to live independently. These can include:

  • forgetting commonly used words, sometimes while speaking

  • repeating the same questions

  • getting lost while walking or driving

  • experiencing sudden mood changes

  • being unable to follow directions

These symptoms could be the onset of dementia. At this point you should see your doctor.

“The most common type of dementia is AD. Recent research has suggested that AD may be strongly connected to having high blood sugar levels.”

How diabetes relates to memory loss

Symptoms of AD include memory loss and general cognitive impairment which are connected to type 2 diabetes.

Blood vessel damage, called oxidation or inflammation, is common in people with diabetes. This damage can lead to cognitive problems and dementia. The same blood vessel damage is often seen with symptoms of AD.

“The results of one study show that AD is closely connected to insulin signaling and glucose metabolism in the brain. The brain contains insulin receptors. These structures recognize insulin. Insulin 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, a risk for type 2 diabetes, affects memory. The symptoms may include:

  • increased blood pressure

  • high blood sugar levels

  • abnormal cholesterol levels

  • increased body fat especially around the waist

One 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 connection between insulin signaling and Alzheimer’s disease is clear.”

For a recommendations of supplements that I recommend for brain and overall body health, please click this link.

Click here for the FREE Summary of the 12 modifiable risks of dementia/Alzheimer's.

You should check with your doctor before taking any supplements. If you consult an alternative health practitioner, make sure to keep a list of all supplements that you’re taking and consult with your doctor. You should discuss any possible interactions with other medication you may be taking.



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