Memory Problems

Studies find blood glucose control linked to memory problems


Jill thought she was losing it; she seemed to be forgetting everything. "Where did I put my keys? Where did I park my car? Why did I go upstairs again?" She never had any memory problems like this before and began to wonder – is her diabetes to blame? Well, it might be.

According to two studies published in the journals Neurology and Diabetes Care, if you have type 2 diabetes, your level of control may affect your memory. These studies highlighted several important pieces of information:

Wide blood sugar swings are linked to memory problems

Here's yet another great reason for keeping your blood glucose level in a healthy range. In one study, the researchers focused on the post-meal test time, which is two hours after the first bite of a meal. They found that individuals with type 2 diabetes (ages 60-78) who had wide blood glucose swings at this time had more difficulty doing cognitive tests than those with better glucose control.

I recommend the post-meal testing time to my patients because it helps them observe the effect their food choices have on their glucose level. Different diabetes organizations suggest different post-meal target goals:


  • American Diabetes Association - less than 180 mg/dl (10 mmol/l)
  • Joslin Diabetes Center - less than 160 mg/dl (8.88 mmol/l)
  • American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists - less than 140 mg/dl (7.77 mmol/l)

Try to achieve the result recommended by your health care provider. If it is higher than your target, change the carbohydrate amount of that meal, increase your activity level for the day, and/or adjust your medication dose as directed by your health care team.

Tighter blood sugar control CAN make a difference

The other study found that over a six-month period, patients who initially had poor diabetes control made 25-31% fewer mistakes on memory tests after they dropped their A1C level below 8% (which is still considered high). In the study, these individuals only adjusted their medication to achieve these results. I believe all changes that lower a person's A1C, such as weight loss, healthy food choices, and increased physical activity, can make a difference.

Here are a few ways to stave off memory problems:

  • Reduce your stress level. The more we have on our minds, the more we may forget.
  • Move! Exercise boosts brainpower and helps reduce stress, which taxes the brain. It also improves a person's overall health and sleep, which affects memory and blood circulation.
  • Challenge your mind. Read, study a language, do crossword puzzles, etc. Exercise your mind as you would exercise your body.
  • Keep your blood sugar level in a healthy range.

Ready to go upstairs again? Let's go!

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.


Last Modified Date: June 24, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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