You have several reasons to keep a close eye on blood sugar. The obvious ones include heart health and diabetes risk. But you might want to start thinking about it more deeply. Blood sugar can have a big effect on how your brain ages.
Studies show that blood sugar, even in people without diabetes, is a risk factor for dementia. Research has shown that incremental increases above “normal” blood sugar is associated with gradual increases in dementia risk.
The reason may come down to inflammation and insulin. High blood sugar can contribute to vascular disease, which can limit blood flow to the brain. Insulin resistance can also affect brain cell health.
A brand-new study is showing that people with diabetes who take metformin, a diabetes drug that promotes better insulin sensitivity, have a substantially lower risk for dementia than those that don’t.
The study, published in Diabetes Care, followed 1,000 people between the ages of 70 and 90 for six years. At the outset, all were living at home and had no signs of dementia. One hundred and twenty-three participants had diabetes, and 67 were taking metformin.
After the study period, researchers found that people with diabetes who weren’t taking metformin were five times more likely to develop dementia than those taking it.
Although this study, and others before it, don’t prove that controlling blood sugar and insulin can keep your brain healthy, it does provide a compelling argument.
Of course, you don’t want to get the point where you need metformin or have type-2 diabetes. Keeping blood sugar under control can be done with a few lifestyle measures.
We can even call them “tricks” to manage blood sugar.
One is timely movement. Although it’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, short spurts of walking can help. Short, frequent walks as short as 1 minute and 40 seconds can help regulate blood sugar.
A short stroll around the block directly following a meal can also control blood sugar.
Along with cutting back on refined carbohydrates, you can try to “mask” them when you do have them. Pairing refined grains or sugar with healthy fats or whole grains may help slow sugar absorption to limit spikes in blood sugar and insulin production.
Getting blood sugar under control may help your mental health as much as physical health. Keep that in mind as you formulate your plan to prevent dementia.