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Diabetes and Brain Health

Dec 09, 2014

I recently went to a continuing education program presented by Pam Baird, BBS, BBA and Candy Hart RN, BS at the Kentucky Statewide Diabetes Symposium titled “Diabetes and Brain Health.” How diabetes affects the brain is a topic that we are hearing more about. Since diabetes is high blood sugar and obviously there is blood in our brain, it makes sense that diabetes affects the brain. They discussed how blood vessel damage occurs from hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes. This vessel damage is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's.

Insulin also plays a key role in brain function. From the HBO special, “The Alzheimer's Project,”  there is an article explaining the research from Dr. Suzanne Craft, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is studying how insulin resistance causes lower insulin levels in the brain resulting in memory problems. They are working on how to restore insulin levels to the brain but not cause higher insulin levels in the rest of the body. Since higher insulin levels in the body would increase insulin resistance and beta-amyloid levels (a protein that contributes to Alzheimer’s).

Besides keeping blood sugars levels in check, they outlined other lifestyle things everyone can do aid in brain health:

-prevent falls
-eat less overall
-make sure you are getting omega 3s on a daily basis
-participate in debates to keep your quick thinking skills sharp
-eat poly-phenols from grape juice and red wine
-deep breathing for relaxation
-exercise peripheral vision by practicing staring straight ahead for a few minutes, not looking right or left
-draw or paint
-sleep 7-8 hours a night
-daily exercise

Have you discussed the relationship between cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s risk with your diabetes patients? Have you seen firsthand how uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer's with your patients? Comment below on creative ways to teach the connection between diabetes and brain function.


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  1. Feb 12, 2015

    I am I'm in agreement that uncontrolled dm2 may affect cognitive functioning and risk of getting Alzheimer's. My own mother who was very sharp minded woman ended up with Alzheimer's in her early 70's. It shocked and saddened the family but I can see the connection with her dm2 that she had since her fifties. Definitely very appropriate discussion to have with our patients. Starting a dialogue in a non threatening way on complications of uncontrolled DM as we engage our patients in counseling
  2. Dec 15, 2014

    Thanks, Amy, for this information. Not a lot of research in this area, but one that obviously needs looked at. This is the first time I have ever read about diabetes and brain health--appreciate learning about new hot topics in diabetes.
  3. Dec 11, 2014

    It's a great topic i like it!!

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