Study Links Diabetes and Alzheimer's: How to Reduce Your Risk

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Filed Under: Diabetes, Mood & Memory, Blood Sugar
Last Reviewed 06/29/2014

Making the right lifestyle changes can help to ward off Alzheimer's Disease.You may have seen or read in the news that researchers have discovered a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. The journal Neurology published a study showing that type 2 diabetes is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, performed by Japanese doctors, followed volunteers age 60 and older for 15 years.

What they found is that type 2 diabetes increased the risk of dementia by 35 percent. Plus, those with the most severe diabetes at the study’s onset had a three-fold increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Folks, I’ve been talking about this link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s for years. One of the disease processes contributing to brain degeneration is insulin resistance, the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Insulin resistance causes neurons to lose their ability to properly use glucose, which is their primary energy source. Inefficient glucose metabolism in specific areas of the brain is an early feature of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, present long before symptoms appear. Neurons deprived of energy obviously cannot function normally and they eventually die, contributing to the degenerative process.

In the research I’ve reviewed over the years, the statistics are equally alarming. They show that overall, diabetes can more than double the risk of dementia.

How to Prevent Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease

Fortunately, there are several effective steps you can take to prevent diabetes and Alzheimer’s:

1. Exercise. Researchers from Washington State University reported that physical activity, independent of weight, is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s because exercise helps to clear beta-amyloid proteins and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, both of which help to reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Exercise is also one of the best ways to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.

2. Adopt a Mediterranean diet. Studies link adherence to a low-fat, Mediterranean-type diet with a 34 percent reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Make a point to eat regular servings of neuroprotective foods such as cold-water fish, low-glycemic vegetables, and berries. Following a low-glycemic diet will also keep your blood sugar on an even keel.

3. Drink caffeinated beverages. Caffeine reduces amyloid plaques in the brains of animals, and a 21-year-long Scandinavian study showed that people who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had a 65 percent reduced risk of dementia, compared to people who drank two or fewer cups. Caffeinated tea works, too.

4. Get adequate sleep. While the diet and exercise recommendations outlined above are effective for preventing diabetes and Alzheimer’s, they won’t do much if you’re not getting a good night’s sleep. Good, solid slumber is necessary for consolidating memories and refreshing the brain’s capacity for learning. It’s no coincidence that you feel mentally slow and foggy after a poor night’s sleep. Research has also shown that adequate sleep is required to prevent type 2 diabetes. If you snore, ask your doctor about being tested for sleep apnea, and if you have it, get treated.

5. Protect your brain with the right supplements. Begin with DHA-rich fish oil (2–4 grams daily) since low levels of DHA, the dominant omega-3 in the brain, are associated with more rapid cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia. Then, add folic acid (up to 5,000 mcg) and vitamins B6 (125 mg) and B12 (up to 2,000 mcg), which reduce levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement with up to 5,000 IU daily.

Now its your turn: Which of these healthy habits have you adopted to lower your risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s?

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