While the terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably, Alzheimer’s is actually a very specific common form of dementia. Often associated with aging, dementia is an umbrella term for brain abnormalities linked to advancing cognitive, behavioral and psychological decline. Signs and symptoms of dementia can include increasing confusion, memory impairment, behavioral changes and communication difficulties, as well as a loss of mental and physical abilities that interferes with daily living. For each person, the stages of dementia from mild cognitive impairment to severe decline progress on individual timetables.
As an irreversible, degenerative and currently incurable disease, Alzheimer’s is generally characterized by impaired energy metabolism, mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic oxidative stress, DNA damage and cell apoptosis, as well as an abundance of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques located between and inside brain neurons. These plaques and tangles are abnormal accumulations of cell-damaging proteins that alter and disrupt cellular function and block neuronal communication. As neurons become injured and neuronal connections break down, brain regions begin to atrophy, eventually resulting in widespread loss of brain volume.
While there is no known cure for dementia and no definitive means of prevention, we do know that lifestyle factors have a profound impact on brain health. Adhering to wholesome lifestyle behaviors that promote healthy aging and reduce chronic disease risk may also inhibit or delay the progression of cognitive decline. General risk prevention and health maintenance strategies include losing excess weight, remaining physically and socially active, getting sufficient healthy sleep and reducing chronic stress. Along with regular physical activity, a healthy diet can lower elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Maintaining weight and blood glucose levels within the normal range may be the most advantageous for keeping the brain healthy and fit as one ages.
Although glucose or blood sugar is the primary source of fuel for the brain and all body cells, high blood sugar is linked to inflammation, obesity and the onset of glucose disorders, such as insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes in older individuals. Although studies have not shown that high blood sugar causes dementia, research does link elevated blood glucose levels with an increased risk of developing dementia and a faster rate of cognitive decline, even in individuals in the non-diabetic range. Numerous studies have documented a strong association between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other types of dementia.
The pathogenesis of cognitive dysfunction remains only partially understood. While researchers continue to study and make significant gains in understanding the effects of diabetes on cognitive dysfunction, we do know that diabetic and prediabetic states consistently present as risk factors for cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment and dementia. The good news is that diabetes and diabetes-related factors are modifiable, potentially allowing for interventions that may delay or prevent the onset of cognitive deterioration. Modern medicine recognizes the influence of diet quality, as well as lifestyle and environmental factors, on body composition and overall healthy function.
- An eating plan that greatly reduces or eliminates processed foods, refined carbohydrates and added sugars, as well as incorporates nutrient, fiber and antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits, plant-based proteins, nuts, healthy fats and fish may also promote long-term brain health and positively impact brain structure.
- Scientific evidence has linked moderate intensity exercise and higher levels of endurance to sharpened memory and enhanced thinking skills. Even more encouraging, middle aged out of shape adults who improved their fitness levels showed the same substantial reduction in dementia risk as those who were fit before midlife.
- Observational studies suggest that controlling blood pressure through lifestyle factors or medications may lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by 16 percent and other forms of dementia by 12 percent.
- As type 2 diabetes is believed to accelerate brain aging, avoiding obesity and insulin resistance through diet and regular physical activity may be the best investment for safeguarding long-term physical and cognitive health.
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Glycemic Manager™ by Integrative Therapeutics®: This comprehensive formula is designed to lessen the impact of high-glycemic foods on blood sugar levels, as well as encourage healthy blood glucose metabolism. Ingredients include vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more. Free of sugar, yeast, wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, ingredients of animal origin and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
Gluco-Response™ by NuMedica®: This high potency formula provides a unique combination of bioavailable vitamins, minerals and botanicals in support of the maintenance of healthy blood sugar, blood lipid levels and insulin metabolism. Free of milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy. Vegetarian formulation.
GlucoSupreme™ Herbal by Designs for Health®: This synergistic herbal formula is designed to help maintain steady blood sugar levels. Ingredients include standardized herbs, botanicals, and ginseng, as well as berberine, a plant compound highly regarded for its efficacy in supporting healthy blood glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity. Gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.
Above-normal blood sugar linked to dementia. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/above-normal-blood-sugar-linked-to-dementia-201308076596
The association of diabetes and dementia and possible implications for nondiabetic populations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3240939/
What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease? https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-happens-brain-alzheimers-disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is Type 3 Diabetes-Evidence Reviewed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769828/
Sugar and the Brain. https://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/sugar-and-brain
Higher brain glucose levels may mean more severe Alzheimer’s. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/higher-brain-glucose-levels-may-mean-more-severe-alzheimers
The Role of Diet in Brain Health. https://www.neurologytimes.com/dementia/role-diet-brain-health
Another Reason to Take Your Blood Pressure Drugs: Lower Dementia Risk. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/well/live/blood-pressure-hypertension-drugs-dementia-alzheimers.html