Taking care of your health; staying active, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular check ups are all important in older age to help prevent chronic illness. But diabetes continues to affect more than a quarter of American seniors and can cause serious health problems for older adults including an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. And even if you don’t have diabetes, high blood sugar has also been linked with a greater chance of developing dementia and accelerated cognitive decline.
According to a recent 10 year study, published in Diabetologia, elevated blood sugar can harm the brain. Researchers found that study participants’ cognitive scores declined correlating with their blood sugar levels rising, even if they did not have a diagnosis of diabetes. However glucose-lowering treatments were not found to be “significantly associated with future cognitive decline”.
As the number of adults reaching 65 and older swells with the aging of the baby boomers, Alzheimer’s disease continues to be a growing health care problem. And according to a large study, published in the journal Neurology, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those without diabetes. As the number of seniors living with multiple chronic health problems rises, the race in on to find new approaches to preventing and treating illnesses that diminish quality of life and increase the burden on health care systems, caregivers and loved ones.
To help prevent type 2 diabetes, adults should eat a healthy diet, stop smoking, limit fat, salt and alcohol and control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Although many people with diabetes or pre-diabetes may have no tell-tale signs of the disease, symptoms can include blurred vision, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, feeling very thirsty, urinating frequently, extreme fatigue, feeling very hungry even when you are eating or cuts and bruises that are slow to heal. Talk with your doctor about these symptoms; early detection can help reduce the risk for developing serious complications from diabetes.