Control your diabetes and keep your marbles.
By Jack Challem
You may already know that keeping your blood glucose under tight control can help you avoid a variety of diabetic complications. But did you know it might also help you hang onto your cognitive function?
Several medical studies suggest that extreme blood glucose levels — too high and too low — interfere with normal cognitive function and may even increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Granted, we've all been embarrassed by those forgetful moments when we can't remember where we've left our keys or if we left the coffee pot on. That type of occasional forgetfulness is normal and nothing to worry about. But regularly feeling fuzzy brained can be a sign of poor glycemic control.
The blood sugar and brain connection
The problem, according to a study by researchers at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, begins with normal age-related changes in the brain. According to an article in the April 2009 Neurobiology of Aging, brain activity starts to slow and cognitive function becomes less agile around age 27. Actual memory problems generally don't start to become noticeable until 10 years later. (Doesn't that make you feel better?)
But several studies indicate that elevated blood glucose levels can make matters much worse. In one of the studies, doctors at New York City's Columbia University Medical Center measured both blood flow in the brain and circulating blood glucose levels in 240 seniors, 60 of whom had diabetes.
Higher blood sugar levels were strongly associated with reduced blood flow in the brain, according to a report in the December 2008 Annals of Neurology. Decreased blood flow means less oxygen and nutrients reaching brain cells. Perhaps more worrisome, even moderate increases in blood glucose slowed the flow of blood in the brain.
The problem, however, becomes more serious for people with type 2 diabetes.
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One of the online diabetes groups I belong to (but don't frequently post to) is geared towards "frum" (Orthodox or "observant") Jewish people with (mostly type 1) diabetes. Most of the chat on the mailing list centers around people needing last-minute supplies before Shabbat or a holiday, where to acquire supplies and get medical help when visiting Israel, and advice on which pump is best for one's type 1 child — in other words, the usual sort of diabetes chatter, but...