Studies show that people with diabetes, especially Type 2, are at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
It is no wonder that November is both National Diabetes Month as well as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. This is an excellent opportunity to explore the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle to keep diabetes in check and reduce your risk for memory impairment.
We all need insulin; it helps the body use or store glucose for energy. For individuals with diabetes, the pancreas may either fail to produce enough insulin or the body ignores the insulin, known as insulin resistance and typical of Type 2 diabetes. A 2013 study published in “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association” found that people with high levels of insulin resistance have a reduced ability to use glucose to fuel normal brain function – consequently, study participants showed signs of brain dysfunction. Diabetes can also cause damage to blood vessels through excess blood sugar. Damaged blood vessels reduce or block blood flow to the brain, which can lead to dementia, in particular, vascular dementia.
Reducing your risk for or effectively managing diabetes will help reduce your risk for cognitive impairment. One of the most important things you can do is control your blood sugar. Avoid meat-and potatoes diets — potatoes and other starches (pasta, rice and white bread) break down into carbohydrates and sugar. And diets that consist largely of junk food and sugar-sweetened drinks force insulin to overwork, which again, can damage your blood vessels. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fiber is recommended to maintain balanced glucose or sugar levels.
Also limit your consumption of Trans fats and saturated fats, as they increase the risk of diabetes. Fortunately, the food industry’s use of Trans fats continues to decrease and in the near future, may end all together. Saturated fats are found in red meats and whole milk. Good fats or healthy fats are monounsaturated and omega 3, which help maintain normal insulin levels.
Omega 3 is found in fish oils, which is why fish are commonly cited as a good dietary choice.