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One in nine individuals over age 65 are estimated to be living with cognitive-related concerns, (1), adding up to 5.2 million Americans that are currently suffering. One in eight adults 60 years or older self-reported concerns of increased confusion or memory loss over their previous years – that’s potentially another 7 million Americans at risk! (2)
In 2015, Australian researchers found that high-normal blood sugar levels are associated with increased risk of developing cognitive concerns later in life (age 60 and over). (3) These findings are supported by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, where they found that fasting blood sugars just above 95mg/dL – still considered within the ‘normal’ range – may be associated with a significant risk in cognitive issues later in life. (14)
In a 2011 report from the CDC, one-third of Americans are currently pre-diabetic, (3) putting 100 million Americans at significant risk for mental and cognitive concerns. To make matters worse, 90% of them – or 90 million Americans – are unaware they have pre-diabetes! (3)
Moreover, many people don’t realize that you can eat healthy treats and still be in the pre-diabetic zone.
Depressing, right? But this does not have to be you, and you can have a positive effect on helping your loved ones steer clear of the danger zone, too.
Read on and learn how to change these odds before it is too late!
Blood Sugar and Memory: Two Links to the Same End
There are two basic theories linking elevated blood sugars to cognitive and mental clarity later in life:
Theory 1: Insulin Resistance of the Brain
Often, cognitive decline is due to a process by which excess amyloid plaque builds up in the brain, compromising brain function.
While many theories exist as to why the plaque accumulates, one common theory is that it is due to a lack of a protein called insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE).
This protein’s job is to remove excess sugar-carrying insulin and amyloid plaque from the brain.
If this enzyme is too busy removing insulin and excess sugar from the brain due to high blood sugar levels, there may not be enough to also remove excess plaque, thereby significantly increasing the risk of cognitive and mental clarity issues.
In a recent study, lower serum levels of IDE were linked with an increased likelihood of developing cognitive issues. (5) Preliminary studies have also indicated reduced insulin sensitivity may be associated with an increased aggregation of dangerous proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid in individuals at risk for cognitive concerns. (6,7)
How Insulin Resistance Works
When blood sugars rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin to drive the sugar into the cells. If the sugars stay abnormally high due to a diet high in simple carbs and/or sugars, the muscles and brain cells can become resistant to up-taking sugar.
No sugar in the brain = no thinking juice!
Theory 2: Glycation and Free Radicals
Excess sugar in the blood tends to oxidize easily and begins to attach to circulating proteins in a process called glycation. In this process, proteins and sugars stick together and may attach to and thicken the arterial walls in both the heart and the brain.
These formations linking protein and sugar are known as advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, and are a kind of free radical. Recent studies indicate a relational link between those products and cognitive decline. (8) Once formed, they can also further oxidize and ultimately raise oxidized LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels.
Recent studies have found brain autopsies of elderly patients with cognitive concerns show signs of significant oxidative damage induced by free radicals. (9) Oxidized LDLs further damage the arterial walls, putting them at risk for calcium plaque formation, and creating an increased risk of other cardiovascular concerns. (10)
Support for the Glycation Theory
Advanced glycation end-products have also been linked to cognitive issues in individuals with and without blood sugar concerns. (11) New evidence suggests that AGEs form in the brains of those suffering from cognitive issues earlier in life, much before cognitive decline is noticed. (12)
Preliminary animal models indicate that high AGEs are associated with an increased aggregation of toxic proteins in the hippocampus region of the brain associated with memory and emotion, which is an area typically compromised by cognitive issues. (13)
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Both of these theories regarding the cause of cognitive decline posit that it stems from excess sugar in the blood, so whichever theory we decide to investigate further, luckily we can agree on the method for prevention.
The key here is early detection of any blood sugar regulation issues, and a diet and lifestyle that can both prevent and reverse blood sugar levels outside of the optimal range. The problem is that 78 million Americans are unaware that they are at risk.
Protect Your Brain: Prevention Steps
- Step One: Screen Your Blood Sugar at Home
At LifeSpa, we source blood sugar monitors that are inexpensive and hospital-approved. Check your blood sugar first thing each morning – this is called your fasting blood sugar – over a period of two weeks. Average levels between 70-85mg/dL are ideal. Over 100mg/dL is considered borderline. Don’t wait until it is too late to screen.
- Step Two: Take the Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Sugar Out of your Diet
Please read my Free Blood Sugar eBook, “Blood Sugar Secrets for Health and Longevity” to find out if you are consuming excess hidden sugars without realizing it!
- Step Three: Proper Exercise for the Brain and Blood Sugar
The big muscles in the body use most of the body’s sugar. When you use these muscles intensively, they pull significant amounts of sugar out of the blood that might otherwise damage the arteries and the brain. You can get these benefits in just 12 minutes a day!
- Step Four: Eat 3 Meals per Day, No Snacks
Spacing meals apart and consistently giving the body time without any food intake allows the body to burn its fat stores for endurance-based energy. Fat is a stable source of fuel, whereas sugar is a very unstable source of fuel. Burning fat decreases the risk of overwhelming the body, raising the blood sugar and accelerating mental aging.
- Step Five: Nutritional Support
There are many nutritional options to support stable blood sugar, memory, and mental clarity. I have written extensively about in previous articles on my website:
- Step Six: Feeding the Brain
Researchers working at Rush University have developed a list of brain-healthy and brain-damaging foods that have been shown to help support cognitive function in aging populations.
10 Brain-Healthy Foods
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Wine in moderation
The 5 Brain-Damaging Foods
- Red meats
- Butter and margarine
- Fast or fried food
- Pastries or sweets