Type 2 diabetes and cognitive impairment are common worldwide. Recent studies have shown that diabetes can lead to dementia. Although it isn’t always true, understanding the link between diabetes and memory loss will help you to understand how to treat these conditions.
Health Shots reached Dr Sandeep Kharab (Senior Consultant Diabetologist at Asian Hospital) and Dr Neha Kapoor (Senior Consultant Neurologist at Asian Hospital), to learn more about the relationship between memory loss and diabetes, and how to protect your brain.
Is there a link between cognitive decline and diabetes?
Your brain is composed of nerve cells, which manage your body’s proper functioning. Your brain needs sugar to provide energy for efficient functioning.
Dr Kharab said, “Being one of the most energy-consuming organs, it consumes half the sugar energy required to function properly.” Your brain can become out of balance if blood sugar levels go beyond the normal range. Diabetes can cause nerve damage in your feet, hands and brain. This can result in memory loss, learning difficulties, weight gain, mood swings and other serious conditions like Alzheimer’s. It is important to maintain blood sugar levels at a target level.
What can high blood sugar do to your brain?
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.
Follow these 5 tips to protect your brain from memory loss, suggested by Dr Kapoor:
1. Get regular healthcare check-ups
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.
Also, read: How to control diabetes? Follow these top 9 lifestyle tips
2. Protein and fibre should be included
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.
3. Monitor your blood sugar levels
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.
4. Consume omega-3 fats and a diet high in antioxidants
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.
5. Regular exercise
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.
Some other tips to keep in mind to lead a healthy life
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.
How to manage diabetes?
“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.