The Importance of Diet and Lifestyle
Diet and lifestyle are significant contributors to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Fortunately there is a growing body of scientific evidence to prove this as well. For example, a study in February 2018 found that high blood sugar levels are associated with cognitive decline. This was true even in people without diabetes, which suggests that even “high-normal” levels of blood sugar could be problematic. Pioneering doctors and researchers like Dr. Dale Bredesen, Dr. Terry Wahls, and Dr. David Perlmutter have done important work on revealing the many different dietary and lifestyle mechanisms that contribute to neurological and cognitive disorders.
Why Blood Sugar Matters
Poor blood sugar regulation is a key contributor to many diseases and disorders. It is essential to maintain a healthy and balanced blood sugar for optimum health. Mismanaged blood sugar literally prevents the healing process. There are many signs and symptoms of poorly balanced blood sugar. Some of these signs are brain fog, low energy, poor sleep, cravings for sugar, worsening of autoimmunity, skin tags, cancer, anger when hungry, and many more. Furthermore, when blood sugar goes up it can promote more cortisol in the body too, which has a corresponding impact on insulin. This leads to another host of issues such as weight gain around the mid section, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hormone imbalances.
How to Monitor Blood Glucose
Many functional medicine practitioners are starting to recommend the monitoring of blood glucose for all patients, even those without diabetes. This is important because it helps you to give a more comprehensive view of what your blood sugar is on a continual basis. By using a simple glucometer, you too can check your blood sugar at home. The benefit is that it is easy to do on your own and it is readily accessible. Since blood sugar monitoring is one of the most important markers for your cognitive health, this is a wonderful idea for anyone looking to avoid the consequences of dementia and Alzheimers.
Diabetes and Cognitive Decline
Many research articles are drawing the connections between diabetes and cognitive decline. For example, in the Archives of Neurology there was a study that showed mild cognitive impairment was connected with earlier onset, longer duration, and greater severity of diabetes. Mild cognitive impairment represents noticeable cognitive impairment challenges (ie: I forgot where I put my keys….again), but they do not interfere with everyday tasks. Some people may consider that part of “normal” aging, but it may also be indicative of early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to cognitive decline, diabetes also increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke- which can then in turn promote more cognitive issues. It can become a vicious cycle of sorts. Additional studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can have as much as a 1.5- to 2.5-fold increase in the risk of dementia and that even Type 1 diabetes can lead to an 80% higher likelihood of developing cognitive dysfunction, compared with those without diabetes.
Pre-Diabetes and Cognitive Decline
Research is also showing that not only does diabetes have a strong correlation to cognitive decline, but so does pre-diabetes. According to Diabetes Journals, pre-diabetes, poor blood sugar control, and longer duration of the disease were associated with greater late-life cognitive decline. While patients with diabetes were at the most risk for cognitive decline, even patients with pre-diabetes had a cognitive decline at a much high rate than their counterparts with a HbA1c level less than 5.7%. On the bright side, if a patient is managing their pre-diabetes well, then they are doing their part to support positive cognitive health outcomes. For example, a study displayed that careful diabetes management with very well regulated glycemic control during midlife actually had a protective effect against cognitive decline in later years.
How to Promote Healthy Blood Sugar
1. Avoid dangerous carbs and sweeteners: These can spike your blood sugar and lead to major imbalances, especially over time. Instead opt for healthy fats and small amounts of high quality proteins.
2. Eat an anti inflammatory diet. This means avoiding sugars, gluten, dairy, alcohol, excessive amounts of caffeine, and highly processed fats. Stay away from processed foods in general (ie: anything that comes in a package) and focus instead on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and high quality meats.
3. Mange your stress. Life happens, stress happens. The important thing is to manage your stress. You can do meditation, exercise, art, family time, spend time in nature, and a multitude of other positive activities. Find something and make a ritual for what works to destress your day.
4. Have an exercise routine. Exercise literally helps to manage blood sugar because it helps your muscles to take up more glucose (for energy and tissue repair) plus it also makes cells more responsive to insulin to prevent resistance.
5. Rest with both quality and quantity. We have all heard it before, but sleep heals! Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night 7-11 hours, depending on the individual and also make sure you are not suffering from a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea. Too little sleep can literally increase your stress hormones as well as your appetite.
There are so many benefits to keeping your blood sugar balanced. We hope that this information is useful for you on your journey for the best cognitive health. If you’d like personal support in this process please click here to learn more about our Happy Health Brain Longevity Program. Also, be sure to check out our entire series on cognitive health by clicking the links below: