People with higher blood sugar levels are more likely to have memory problems, according to new research that suggests reducing levels of blood sugar could help to protect against cognitive disease.
October 24, 2013
Published in the journal Neurology, the research team investigated whether raised blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels have an impact on cognitive functions including memory performance and hippocampal volume and microstructure in a group of healthy, older, non-diabetic people without dementia.
Led by Dr. Agnes Floel, of Charite University Medicine in Berlin, Germany, the team found that people with lower blood sugar levels were more likely to have better scores on the memory tests.
“These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age,” said Floel.
The study involved 141 people with an average age of 63 who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is also called impaired glucose tolerance. People who were overweight, drank more than three-and-a-half servings of alcohol per day, and those who had memory and thinking impairment were not included in the study.
The participants’ memory skills were tested, along with their blood glucose levels. They also had brain scans to measure the size of the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory.
For example, the participant’s ability to recall words was lower when blood sugar levels were higher. In addition, an increase in the hemoglobin A1c (a long term measure of glucose) of 7 points was also associated with diminished memory skills. People with higher blood sugar levels also had smaller volume in the hippocampus.
Insulin resistance is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome. The other factors, obesity, high blood pressure, high serum lipids, and low thyroid function go hand-in-hand with poor sugar control to create most if not all chronic illness in our nation. Dementia is no exception. I have long advocated running the hemoglobin A1c yearly as a preventative lab test. By the time the fasting glucose is consistently elevated, significant damage has been done as evidenced by this study.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Have your hemoglobin A1c checked yearly. The medical norm is below 5.7. Don’t wait until you are 6.5, diagnosed as diabetic, and placed on medication. Diet modification and exercise can quickly reduce the A1c back within medical norms. However, it is much more difficult and often impossible to reverse the damage to the kidneys, nervous system, eyes, and legs caused by glucose intolerance.