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Worldwide, illnesses like type 2 diabetes and cognitive impairment are very common. In recent years, studies have found that diabetes can cause dementia. Though it is not always the case, being aware of the connection between diabetes and memory loss can help everyone understand how to treat and prevent these disorders.
Health Shots reached out to Dr Sandeep Kharab, Senior Consultant Diabetologist at Asian Hospital, and Dr Neha Kapoor, Senior Consultant Neurologist at Asian Hospital, to understand the link between diabetes and memory loss and how you can protect your brain from the damage.
Your brain is made up of nerve cells that manage the proper functioning of your body. In order to work efficiently, your brain uses the sugar in your blood for energy.
Dr Kharab says, “Being the most energy-demanding organ, it takes up half of all the sugar energy in the body to function properly. And if your blood sugar levels are out of the normal range, it can throw your brain off balance. Therefore, the way diabetes can affect your nerves in the feet, hands, and eyes, it can also affect your brain.” This in turn can lead to problems with memory, learning, hormonal changes, weight gain, mood swings, and other serious problems like Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why it’s important to keep blood sugar at target levels.
Your brain needs sugar as it is an energy source. Therefore, one may think, the more sugar you provide your brain, the better. But that is not true. Frequent episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can damage and stress the brain. In fact, “Overtime, blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the brain get damaged, which results in too little blood reaching your brain, causing brain cells to die. This condition is called brain atrophy and can cause problems with thinking, memory, and can lead to vascular dementia, ” adds Dr Kharab.
Many people don’t know whether they have diabetes or not. Many people with diabetes are also unaware of their raised blood sugar levels, which is more frequent than most people realize. Attending an annual check-up with your healthcare provider is one of the greatest ways to learn more about your health, especially if diabetes runs in your family.
Blood sugar levels can be greatly improved by combining carbohydrates with foods that are high in protein and fibre. Therefore, the next time you eat a plate of plain white pasta, serve it with some vegetables and a bowl of chicken. Or decide on a bag of almonds rather than a pack of fried chips for your 3 o’clock machine run.
Keep a tab on your blood sugar level and make sure to follow your doctor’s treatment plan carefully. Poor blood sugar control is linked with worsening cognitive function. Managing your blood sugar levels is the key to preventing diabetes complications, including cognitive decline.
The healthiest foods for protecting the health of the brain are those high in omega-3 fatty acids. They also aid to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and slow down cognitive loss by reducing inflammation in the body. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel as well as nuts and seeds like chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and flaxseed oil are examples of meals high in omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, the fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs in your diet are a rich source of antioxidants.
Regular physical activity helps to prevent or delay the progression of type 2 diabetes. Besides, it can positively impact insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and A1C levels.
Although it has been proven that having type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes increases the risk of cognitive impairment later in life, some healthy habits can work as a “helmet” to shield your mind and its abilities. Other chronic disease risk-reducers, such as stress management, quitting smoking (if you currently smoke), and moderate alcohol use, can also help lessen the negative effects of pre-diabetes and diabetes. Your body and brain may both benefit from a healthy lifestyle, which can also help you live a longer, more active life.
“For this, you need to control your blood sugar, eat a diet high in vegetables, fibre, and fruit, and engage in regular physical activity. These can, in turn, help you protect not only your brain, but diabetes too. It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle and make efforts to preserve your mental capacity. Early adoption of healthy habits can help safeguard your brain against cognitive decline,” says Dr Kapoor.
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