Can Food Choices Impact Your Odds of Developing Alzheimer's?
As knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease advances, scientists have identified several possible causes of the condition. Some dementia experts suggest lifestyle changes may help reduce the risk of developing it, including healthy eating, brain exercise, and regular physical activity.
One particularly promising body of research raises an important question: can type 2 diabetes cause Alzheimer’s disease?
We know that one in four adults aged 65 and older live with diabetes and that one in eight older adults live with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have been exploring whether there is a link between the two.
Let’s look at what we know about diet, diabetes, and dementia.
Is There a Link between Diabetes and Dementia?
Since 2005, the evidence of a link between dementia and insulin resistance has grown stronger. In fact, some researchers have started referring to Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes. Studies indicate that older adults diagnosed with diabetes are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The catch is that researchers don’t understand the cause and effect between diabetes and dementia. Most agree, however, that high blood sugar can negatively impact brain health.
It’s important to first understand what diabetes is and how it develops.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and it’s on the rise in the United States. Most physicians believe the obesity epidemic is the culprit. Obesity is typically the result of poor lifestyle choices, specifically an unhealthy diet.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body isn’t able to make the right amount of insulin or doesn’t process insulin properly. As blood sugar levels rise in the body, blood vessels, including those in the brain, become stressed. This can cause arteries to harden and narrow.
When the blood supply to the brain isn’t adequate, an older adult’s cognitive faculties can decline. The adult may develop memory loss, have difficulty concentrating and completing tasks, and even struggle with mobility.
Excess glucose also makes it difficult for the brain to break down fatty membranes. When these membranes stick together, they form plaques and tangles that scientists think contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lower Your Risk for Diabetes and Alzheimer’s
While there is no conclusive evidence so far, many researchers believe one of the best ways to protect yourself from Alzheimer’s disease is to prevent type 2 diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association says you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by:
- Eating healthy: The Create Your Plate method from the ADA is one way to manage your diet. MyPlate for Older Adults is another.
- Work with your physician: Find a physician you trust and work closely with them on preventative health. This can help keep your cholesterol within the normal range and your blood pressure under control.
- Don’t smoke: You’ve heard this one over and over, but it bears repeating. Your risk for many health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, is lower if you don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly: Frequent, moderate exercise is another prevention practice. Talk with your physician for advice about how often and how much exercise you should be getting to ward off disease.
- Alcohol in moderation: Another issue to talk with your doctor about is alcohol consumption. Most doctors recommend limiting alcoholic beverages to just one drink, once or twice a week.
Controlling your blood sugar will help you live a healthier life which may, in turn, prevent or delay the onset of dementia.
Memory Care at Sunrise
Our Reminiscence Neighborhoods at Sunrise Senior Living communities provide adults with memory impairment a safe, secure environment to call home. Specialized programs and activities help residents live their best life despite the disease.
If an adult you love has Alzheimer’s, we encourage you to visit a Sunrise community near you to see firsthand how we can help improve their quality of life.