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Are Diabetes And Dementia Linked?

Posted by Interim Healthcare |
Mar 20, 2014 12:00 AM

Type 2 diabetes is one of the biggest health problems facing older adults. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 percent of people over the age of 65 in the U.S. have the condition, and approximately 86 million others are living with prediabetes. With so many people dealing with the realities of diabetes, many organizations are looking to possible treatments, as well as potential side effects. One of the most recent reports indicates that the onset of diabetes may impact the brain more than was previously thought - and that has a major effect on how all types of health conditions, including blood sugar problems, are treated.

Exploring a connection between dementia and diabetes
The University of Waterloo conducted a study that examined the link between diabetes and cognitive function. According to the research, which was published in Nature Reviews Neurology, the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes was associated with a reduction in cognitive performance, including a worse control of emotions and behaviors. 

Diabetes has long been linked to problems such as hypertension, kidney disease and heart disease, among several other issues, according to the American Diabetes Association. However, this is one of the first studies to connect the condition to mental performance, which raises many concerns. For instance, the management of diabetes often relies heavily on patients making smart choices and monitoring their blood sugar. Should mental capacities decline, it would become much more difficult for individuals to achieve these tasks and improve their health. 

In addition to managing the diabetes itself, patients will have to make an effort to track various other aspects of personal health. Anyone who begins noticing that they're more forgetful than usual - perhaps they don't remember names as well or they find themselves putting objects in strange spots - should talk with a professional about what the change might mean. Similarly, if they experience new symptoms that aren't linked to diabetes or its treatment, they should speak up. It could be a warning that they are at risk for a related condition. 

Promoting mental and physical health
Although the two conditions may be linked, working to reduce the risk of both is also a joint effort. University of Waterloo researchers recommended engaging in activities that stimulate all areas of the body. For example, regular exercise and mental puzzles enhance the part of the brain that dictates self-control, which is essential when sticking to a special diet or medication schedule. Something as simple as taking walks, gardening or dancing could pay off in a big way. 

"Fortunately, there are a few things that can help optimize the brain structures that support executive function," said Peter Hall, the study's senior author. "Aerobic exercise and cognitively challenging activities - such as learning new things, solving difficult puzzles and other problem solving activities - all help to keep your brain sharp. Aerobic exercise is probably the most important, however, because it has benefits to both the brain and the rest of the body simultaneously." 

Seniors can also participate in special brain benders or mind games that keep memory and related cognitive functions sharp. Reading books and newspapers is just the beginning. Adults should also make an effort to play games and complete puzzles, whether it's a daily crossword or a more complex activity done in a social group. Pastimes such as playing cards, which can be relaxing and fun, may also be used to get seniors out of the house, interacting with friends and using their brains.

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Christina Wilkening
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Fort Collins, CO 80525


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