Aging Options

10-Year Study Shows Linkage between High Blood Sugar, Dementia

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“The higher the blood sugar, the faster the cognitive decline.” That’s the bottom-line conclusion reported in this just-published article from The Atlantic.  At a time when people are becoming increasingly aware of the problems caused by too much sugar in our Western diet, now there’s one more reason to worry – and to redouble our efforts to reduce our dietary sugar intake.

The article calls this newly-discovered linkage “startling” and draws a clear link between cognitive decline and the way we eat.  Because it has long been known that dementia and diabetes are both connected to the body’s production of insulin, “In recent years, Alzheimer’s disease has occasionally been referred to as ‘type 3’ diabetes, though that moniker doesn’t make much sense,” writes The Atlantic. Instead, rather than being some other type of diabetes, “it’s increasingly looking like Alzheimer’s is another potential side effect of a sugary, Western-style diet.”

How much sugar are we eating? It’s hard to come up with a precise statistic but one article we read reported that the average American consumes roughly 53 pounds of sugar per year – roughly one pound every week! As most of us are learning, cutting back on sugar isn’t quite as simple as putting less sugar in your morning coffee and eating fewer chocolates: that’s because sugar, in one form or another, is being added to practically everything we eat. To complicate matters even more, the food label on your favorite spaghetti sauce or salad dressing probably won’t say “sugar.” Instead it will disguise it’s presence by using one of more than 50 different names, as listed in this article from a popular women’s magazine from a few years ago. Carob syrup, glucose solids, diastatic malt, evaporated cane juice – it’s all sugar as far as your body is concerned.

The research report reported on in The Atlantic should be enough to get the attention of even the most skeptical.  In the study that triggered the Atlantic piece, just published in a medical journal called Diabetologia, researchers followed almost 5,200 people for a full decade and discovered that “people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline than those with normal blood sugar,” whether or not they were technically diabetic. This study appears to corroborate other research also cited in The Atlantic that has explored the connection between dementia and insulin deficiency. Compounds related to insulin help break down the protein plaques in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and an inability to produce adequate supplies of insulin seem to leave those “brain clumps” unaddressed. Now scientists are proving that this problem is present in some people with high blood sugar even if they are not diabetic.

Because a high-carbohydrate diet is linked with excessive blood sugar, many researches are warning people to be much more careful with their carb consumption. “Just because you don’t have type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you can eat whatever carbs you want, especially if you’re not active,” said one epidemiologist from the Mayo Clinic. What we eat, she added, is “a big factor in maintaining control of our destiny.” That’s why this newly released study linking prediabetes and cognitive decline is such a dramatic medical development.

Here at AgingOptions we deal almost every day with families facing the pain of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Cognitive decline is the fate that today’s seniors fear the most, according to survey after survey.  “It’s such a horrible disease,” says The Atlantic, “that it can be tempting to dismiss it as inevitable.” The good news, however, is that, although we have little control over the various genetic and other factors that can trigger dementia, there do appear to be several things we can do, especially early in life, to mitigate the risk.  As medical research is demonstrating, “decisions we make about food are one risk factor we can control. And it’s starting to look like decisions we make while we’re still relatively young can affect our future cognitive health.” As with so many aspects of preparing for a healthy retirement future, planning is essential, and the sooner you start planning properly, the better.

What about your overall plan for the next phase of your life? If you’re looking toward retirement, you’ll need a truly comprehensive plan that will help guide you through all the choices you’ll be required to make. Financial planning is essential, of course, but financial planning alone is far from sufficient: even the best money management strategy can fall apart when a medical crisis hits or a housing choice has to be made. Instead of thinking about money alone, you need a plan that blends financial, medical, legal and housing strategies together, and one that also incorporates your communication strategy with your family. We call that an AgingOptions LifePlan – and we invite you to join Rajiv Nagaich soon to discover more about what a LifePlan can do for you. Why not invest just a few hours at attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars? It will open your eyes to a brand new way of thinking about retirement.

Seminars take place in a variety of locations throughout the Puget Sound region. You’ll find all the details here – then once you’ve selected your seminar, you can register online or contact us for assistance during the week. But we urge you, don’t delay any longer!  As with deciding to make better decisions to maintain your good health, the sooner you start living your LifePlan, the greater your benefit will be. Age on!

(originally reported at

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