Ageing is inevitable — increasing your risk of both mental and physical health conditions. With that being said, there are a number of ways that you can protect yourself. Diabetes, for instance, increases one’s risk of heart attacks and kidney failure, whereas dreaded cases of Alzheimer’s rob the memories of those it affects.
Other than the fact that both diabetes and Alzheimer’s cases are on the rise, do they have anything else in common? Often referred to as ‘type 3’ diabetes, Alzheimer’s is more closely linked to blood glucose than you’d first assume. How does one influence the other and what steps can you take to protect yourself?
The Association Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s
Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia and unfortunately, there is no cure. Although there are various types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is by far the most common. Diagnoses are expected to rise over the next decade, as cases of type 2 diabetes continue to skyrocket.
Of course, the human body is complex — systems work together in order to achieve optimal functioning and health. Even though diabetes and Alzheimer’s may not seem to be related, they are most certainly not independent of one another. When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, their bodies are either no longer making insulin or can no longer use it effectively.
While focusing on ‘type 3’ diabetes, this condition is similar to type 2, however, it occurs within the brain. Glucose is the brain’s main energy source and certain areas of the brain are rich in insulin receptors. Since the brain has the highest basal rate in terms of glucose consumption, changes in glucose metabolism are key while focusing on cases of Alzheimer’s.
Insulin is required for neurons to readily absorb glucose and once brain cells become insulin-resistant, symptoms of Alzheimer’s may develop. This makes sense, because if brain cells cannot metabolise glucose, they die. A number of studies have also reported that if you have diabetes, you may double your risk of Alzheimer’s.
This relationship cannot be ignored, even though the exact mechanisms are still unknown. A number of theories have surfaced, including prolonged high blood sugar, interfering with the body’s ability to break down a protein known as amyloid. This is the protein that forms the classic hallmark of Alzheimer’s, known as plaques.
How Do I Protect Myself?
Unfortunately, researchers still aren’t certain what causes Alzheimer’s, however, based on the strong correlation between diabetes and cognitive decline, diet is the first place to start. Numerous studies have found a connection between not only Alzheimer’s and diabetes, but dementia and obesity.
The standard diet consumed in western diets, is packed with refined sugars and void of essential nutrients. It’s recommended that you reduce your intake of red meat, moving towards a plant-based diet. Of course, fatty fish has long been referred to as ‘brain food’ — just be mindful of where your fish comes from in terms of mercury levels.
On a daily basis, consume more:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens
- Whole grains, such as rye, bulgur, quinoa, and oats
- Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts — practice portion control, only a small handful is required to meet your needs
- Legumes — lentils, beans, and peas
- Fatty fish rich in omega-3, including salmon, tuna, herring, trout, mackerel, and sardines
- Plenty of clean water
Inflammation is also an issue in both diabetes and Alzheimer’s, so regular exercise is recommended. In fact, within one study, 4,000 middle-aged men and women were followed for ten years. Regardless of BMI or weight, those who participated in 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week, lowered markers of inflammation by 12 percent.
From reducing environmental toxin exposure to effective stress management, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce your risk of not only Alzheimer’s and diabetes, but heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Do not wait until problematic symptoms surface to take action. Be proactive with your health, not reactive — making changes today that will protect your health for years to come.
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