Is Alzheimer Disease Another Kind of Diabetes?

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While reading an article about nasal insulin spray, I learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) studied the effectiveness of this medicine in people with Alzheimer disease. Previous research had found that low levels of insulin in the brain could contribute to the condition.

To their surprise, many of the participants’ memory and thinking skills improved as the insulin levels in their brains rose.

Diabetes is known to be linked to an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer disease, and diabetes is more common in people who have Alzheimer disease than in the general population.

One commonality between them seems to be the damage done by high blood sugar and an inflammatory diet.

The worst thing about our Western diet is the high number of inflammatory foods in it. If Alzheimer disease runs in your family, some experts recommend changing to a less inflammatory meal plan such as the Mediterranean diet.

For diabetes, cognitive health, and general health, it is a good idea to stay away from refined carbohydrates like white bread and to instead eat whole, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthful fats, and lean proteins. “Brain foods” include walnuts, blueberries, salmon, and spinach, all of which contain various nutrients that our brains need.

Some experts have gone so far as to call Alzheimer a third kind of diabetes, and I can see why. Both involve problems with insulin and blood sugar regulation.

I was surprised to learn that our brains manufacture their own insulin and that inflammation can affect insulin levels in the brain. So low insulin levels in the brain may be added to the list of what doctors look for when diagnosing Alzheimer disease.

Knowing all of this gives us one more powerful reason to change the things we eat, to leave behind processed foods and refined carbohydrates that stress our bodies and lead to inflammation.

However, diet is only part the story if we want to avoid complications from diabetes like cognitive decline. There is proof that being more active improves insulin production and sensitivity in diabetes. It is the best way to naturally lower blood sugar levels.

Becoming more active also improves our brains. Sedentary people who start doing exercise, even mild things like gardening and taking walks, do better on memory tests.

Mild cognitive impairment is an early sign that Alzheimer disease may be on the horizon. Psychologists tested people with mild cognitive impairment before and after a few months of gentle activity, and those tests showed definite improvement in thinking skills.

This is good news. The same switch to a more active lifestyle will help us with diabetes and slow down cognitive decline. It will give us more years to do the things we want to do.

Whatever is in the future for you, knowing these things may encourage you to keep changing what you eat and how much activity you add to your day. The change does not have to be drastic or sudden.

Lose a few pounds, walk a little more, try something new. There is hope for you even if memory loss is creeping up on you; even if genetics is not on your side.

You are not a statistic. I wish you all the best.

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