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Diabetes and Alzheimer's are closely linked according to scientific research. Close to over 21 million US citizens have diabetes. This is a disease that is associated with a diminishing capacity of the body to convert glucose to energy. A significant percentage of these people do not know that they have diabetes. Most persons with diabetes have Type 2 variant which is the result of being overweight and not exercising enough. But what most people also do not know is the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. When diabetes is not controlled, the blood glucose levels rise. Across a span of time, increased sugar spikes can damage significant organs of the body including the brain.
Scientists have found a link between Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. This is the most common form of dementia and the 7th leading cause of fatalities in the US. Research indicates that adults with Type 2 diabetes have a greater chance of Alzheimer’s. A progressive neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s currently has no cure. Individuals with this disorder develop anxiety, agitation, and delusions. Close to 5 million people in the US have this disease. People with diabetes and pre diabetic conditions are also prone to developing Alzheimer’s. The latter condition is when the blood glucose levels rise but not significantly enough to cause diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
High blood sugar is an indication of developing resistance to insulin. In this disorder, the human body is non-responsive to insulin. Insulin refers to a hormone that converts sugar to energy and fuels critical bodily processes. To start with, the human body requires additional insulin to generate the energy it needs. But eventually, the body is making excessive insulin up to abnormal levels.
If the cells grow insulin resistant, blood sugar levels rise higher and diabetes is the result. High blood glucose levels and an insulin spike can damage the body. Insulin levels are not routinely measured as tests are expensive. Insulin resistance includes a big waist of at least 40 inches in men and 35 in women.
Blood pressure is another indicator with BP levels above 130/85 suggesting a possible diabetic tendency. Diabetes also correlated with low levels of HDL or good cholesterol.
Know More About The Alzheimer’s Link
Research demonstrates that those with a genetic history of the disease are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Post diseases involve heredity, genetics or both. Currently, doctors do not know what leads to Alzheimer’s disease or the role played by diabetes. But it is known high blood sugar or insulin may harm the brain in countless ways. Diabetes raises chances heart disease and stroke, which in turn can lead to damaged blood vessels in the brain. This could be a mechanism of causation in Alzheimer’s disease.
The brain also depends on different chemicals which can be imbalanced by excessive insulin. These changes may help trigger a disease. High blood glucose levels also cause inflammation thereby causing brain cells to deteriorate and develop Alzheimer’s.
Both diseases are connected in ways not fully documented. Research is currently exploring the connection between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s as well as other forms of dementia. Steps to eliminate or control diabetes can reduce chances of a cognitive impairment.
How Diabetes Damages The Brain
Diabetes damages the blood vessels triggering vascular dementia. This kind of dementia stems from brain damage caused by blocked or reduced blood flow to the brain. People with diabetes show brain changes that form the basis of not just vascular dementia but also Alzheimer’s disease. The conditions, according to some researchers, fuel the damage caused by the other further.
Recent research has better understood the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. This link occurs on account of complex means through which the type 2 diabetes impacts the brain and other body tissues to use blood sugar and react to insulin.
Mild cognitive impairment also results from diabetes whereby people experience more thinking and memory problems than those with normal aging. Mild impairment can either precede or cause Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia.
Correlation Between Diabetes and Alzheimer's
A research study at NY’s Albany University demonstrated that Alzheimer’s may be a more advanced phase of type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes are associated with an insulin spike. This rise in insulin disrupts the brain chemistry and causes the build up of toxic proteins in the brain cells. This protein forms in Alzheimer’s patients and those with type 2 diabetes both.
Diabetes is a step towards cognitive decline and not just controlling weight or diet. In the past couple of years, research has isolated a connection between the two medical diseases. Studies have shown those with type 2 diabetes also experience a massive decline in cognitive function. Close to a majority of 70% ultimately develop Alzheimer’s. Recent research also found brain tangles generally seen in those with Alzheimer’s is also more likely in diabetic patients. Participants with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have these brain tangles even in the absence of memory loss or dementia.
Research has also found that overall, people who are diabetic have a thinner cortex and the presence of tau protein as seen by spinal fluid which shows an increased level of brain tangles. Type 2 diabetes can lead to brain abnormalities that trigger Alzheimer’s. But care should be taken that correlation alone does not imply causation and that factors like high blood sugar levels, obesity and neurodegeneration may be at play here.
This research has plenty of implication though when it comes to understanding how diabetes control could prevent plaque build up in the brain. Diabetes increases tau buildup as well. Results of the studies indicate that Alzheimer’s and diabetes are closely associated and play a role in brain health.
The connection between Alzheimer’s and diabetes is strengthening with more research. A recently published study found that early or undiagnosed diabetes, obesity or pre-diabetic leads to hyperinsulinemia and nearly half of the all the people with Alzheimer’s were found diagnosed with this condition.
This has a lot of implications for Alzheimer’s and diabetes detection. Those with dementia should be encouraged to test for blood sugar intolerance. The glycemic index of food labels should also be correctly tested. Prediabetic people should also be on a lookout for developing dementia symptoms. Scientists also agree that the Alzheimer disease could be halved if diabetes was abolished. Some researchers have even gone to the extent of dubbing Alzheimer’s as Type III diabetes.
Certain markers at the cellular level are available for metabolic diseases with biochemical and molecular features corresponding with diabetes mellitus and other peripheral insulin resistance disorders. These are associated with Alzheimer’s as well. Doses of nasal insulin passing through the blood/brain barrier improved memory in people with early Alzheimer’s disease and milder cognitive deficits. Inflammatory response plays a role as well. Both diabetes and Alzheimer’s are a response to inflammation of the organs. More people need to be screened for both.
Another research found that 40% of the Alzheimer’s cases are connected to hyperinsulinemia or more insulin levels relative to blood glucose levels. This is true for people with diabetes as well as pre-diabetic conditions as well as those prone to Alzheimer’s. Diabetes is strongly associated with dementia and those diagnosed at middle age are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s according to researchers.
The Role of Stressors
Researchers are also investigating the role of the HPA or hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. This impacts the reactions to stressors, apart from also influencing immunity and digestion. This might lead to diabetes and hippocampus stress, exacerbating inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain. More testing can keep people away from diabetic and pre diabetic conditions and dementia resulting from poor stress management.
Drugs for treating diabetes can also be used for treating Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa. This is as per new research from Aberdeen University. The one of a king study shows that Alzheimer’s can also exacerbate diabetes. Dementia related complications within the brain can also lead to changes in glucose regulation and diabetes.
Increased level of certain genes which stimulated toxic protein production in the brain cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s and are also linked to complications associated with diabetes. Around 80 percent of people with Alzheimer’s show incidence of diabetic complications, according to some studies. Research has even shown a lack of regulation of the brain can stimulate early diabetes. In fact, diabetes can be attributed to changes in the brain as well.
Researchers now hold that diabetic deregulation and obesity medication can be beneficial for Alzheimer’s as well. New drugs will reverse Alzheimer’s and diabetic symptoms.
How Insulin Resistance Affects Brain Mechanics
When cells demonstrate insulin resistance, this affects the brain mechanisms. The cells don’t get the fuel they require. The brain malfunctions as a result of this. Blood sugar also goes up over time causing deposits of fat in blood vessels.
This can destroy the generation of chemicals in the brain and scientists are also studying how stroke triggered by diabetes can impact the brain and cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s.
Blocked communication between nerve cells results when high blood glucose levels linked to protein pieces called beta amyloid clump together. The neurons or nerve cells are not able to transmit signals which are the key symptom of Alzheimer’s.
Cells are always moving blood, oxygen, and nutrients and a protein called tau blocks it when it gets tangled in the brain of Alzheimer patients. Some research suggests more tangled tau proteins are found in brains of people with diabetes. They have more dying brain cells which result in dementia.
What You Need to Do
Managing blood sugar levels is important. Keeping blood glucose levels below a certain percentage helps the brain to stay well.
Working out and exercising regularly also helps in managing insulin better and maintaining blood sugar levels and brain health. Exercise circulates oxygen rich blood in the brain, lowering chances of heart attacks.
Most research confirms the relationship between the diseases and eating healthy staves off both. Losing weight and exercising keeps diabetes and Alzheimer’s at bay. Eating healthy foods, maintaining the right weight, blood pressure and cholesterol control, avoidance of stimulants like alcohol and cigarettes and following a regular exercise routine are just some of the ways you can ensure a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Effective diabetes management helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as well as other dementias. It also prevents complications such as stroke, eye damage or cardiovascular diseases.
You need to follow the health care team’s recommendations about a suitable scheme for monitoring blood sugar levels, blood pressure count, and cholesterol.
Eating healthy foods and preventing overweight tendencies through constant exercise is also the right step. Simple changes in a lifestyle can prevent diabetes and cut the risk of heart attacks as well as dementia.