The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado suggests that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain.

Nearly 21 million people in the United States have diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes has been linked to a lack of exercise and being overweight, but some adults have a higher risk than others including those over the age 65, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans.

Over time if diabetes is not controlled, the disease can cause damage to major organs. Type 2 Diabetes also puts people at risk for illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve problems. There are three things people can do to help cut the risk of diabetes: lose weight, exercise, and eat a healthy, low-fat diet.

Type 2 diabetes can also harm the brain. Compared to people without diabetes, more people with diabetes get dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia followed by vascular dementia. Researchers have discovered a link between diabetes and both of these other diseases.

A person with dementia develops progressive memory loss, and has difficulty with other thinking and reasoning; symptoms not caused by normal aging. Researchers don’t know yet what causes Alzheimer’s disease or exactly how it is connected to diabetes but believe there is a link. While Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes brain cell death researchers know that diabetes also harms the brain in several ways:

  • Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Damaged blood vessels in the brain can contribute to Alzheimer’s.
  • Too much insulin can upset the balance of chemicals in the brain. Some of those changes are thought to trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
  • High blood sugar causes inflammation which may damage brain cells and help Alzheimer’s to start.

Researchers are currently looking closely at medications for Type 2 diabetes testing to see if they may help prevent or treat Alzheimer’s.

Eating healthy, exercising and managing your diabetes and other medical conditions may help you offset the severity of Alzheimer’s symptoms and may even delay the onset of the disease. If you notice that a family member is having trouble with their memory, making decisions, completing everyday tasks or seems unusually disoriented in their own home, talk with your doctor. The Alzheimer’s Association is also available with hope and help. Counselors are available 24-hours a day at the Association’s Helpline 800-272-3900 or online at www.alz.org/co where families can get answers to questions, information, education, and referrals as well as someone who will simply listen. Support groups, written materials, classes, care consultation, and MedicAlert+Safe Return are also available.

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© 2015 Colorado Black Health Collaborative
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