is an incurable disease characterized by high blood glucose levels.
This is the result of the body's inability to produce or use insulin.
One of the complications of diabetes is short term
memory loss - and in this article we'll look at the
different variations of the disease and how each type can be a cause of
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of diseases which affects
nearly 24 million (8%) of the US population. The condition is is
categorized into three different forms:
is a genetic defect usually diagnosed in children and young adults. It
arises from the inability to produce the hormone insulin, which is
needed every time you eat to convert sugar and starches into energy.
People with Type 1 diabetes usually need to inject insulin into their
bodies and constantly be aware of their blood sugar levels.
Fortunately, this most extreme form of diabetes only affects 5-10% of
all sufferers but with no cure is does remain a lifelong condition.
is the most common form of diabetes and millions of Americans have been
diagnosed, although many more are at high risk. This condition is often
diagnosed later in life when the body can no longer produce enough
insulin, or the cells begin to ignore the insulin. Without
intervention, this can lead to serious complications including heart
disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Gestational Diabetes is
a temporary form of the disease which affects around 4% of all pregnant
women at 28 weeks or later. It begins when hormones from the placenta
block the action of the mother's insulin. The condition corrects itself
after the birth but it is very important to maintain healthy blood
sugar levels during pregnancy to avoid serious complications for both
mother and baby.
Diabetes and Memory Loss
People who suffer from diabetes must take extra
care to control their condition so that their blood sugar levels never
get too high - or too low. They must carefully monitor how much and
what kind of foods they eat, how much physical exercise they do, and in
the case of Type 1 diabetes, how much insulin they inject into
When diabetes is left uncontrolled is can lead to memory
loss. There is limited storage for glucose in the brain,
and it must pass through the blood-brain barrier where its intake is
regulated. We need a constant supply of glucose to the brain in order
to maintain normal brain functioning. So when a diabetic person becomes
hyperglycemic (too much glucose) or hypoglycemic (too little glucose)
the brain functioning suffers...
Neurotransmission is the passage of signals from
one nerve cell to another, via chemicals or electrical signals. To
function properly, it requires a high metabolic rate in the brain and a
constant supply of glucose.
When you are learning new information and
committing it to memory, it is essential that neurotransmission can
take place. Any lag in the process will severely impede your ability to
learn and remember. This can affect everyone on some level - remember a
time when you skipped breakfast and couldn't concentrate all morning
till you ate something?
For diabetics, the risk of failing
neurotransmission occurs daily, no matter whether they have Type 1,
Type 2 or Gestational Diabetes. You may think that high glucose levels
could accelerate your brain functioning but this is just as damaging as
low glucose levels. Both extremes cause the hippocampus to malfunction,
resulting in poor concentration and attention span, short term memory
loss, and the inability to commit anything new to long term memory.
How to Improve Your Memory as a Diabetic
Proper management of diabetes and the maintenance of appropriate
blood-sugar levels are essential in protecting yourself from memory
loss. Ensuring that your blood pressure is well-controlled is also
vitally important. Maintenance of these factors along with the
following combination of memory-boosting activities and behaviors can
improve cognition and prevent memory loss:
- The link between sleep and diabetes should not be ignored.
Researchers have confirmed that high blood sugar can cause insomnia and
restless sleep. Poor sleeping habits have also been shown to increase
insulin resistance, wherein the body fails to recognize and properly
respond to the presence or introduction of insulin. Sleep has also been
proven to positively affect memory, as the brain uses this time to sort
and file information collected throughout the day. Maintaining a steady
sleep cycle and getting the best, uninterrupted sleep possible for 7 –
9 hours each day is as crucial for memory health as it is for
- Mental exercise is as good for the brain as physical exercise is for
the body. Stimulate your mind with online memory games, crosswords or
soduku puzzles. Learn a new language or master a musical instrument.
These activities can build your mental muscles.
Exercise and Diet
- While we're on the subject of exercise, physical exercise is good for
the brain too. Along with endorphin release and mood enhancement,
recent studies show that exercise creates new neurons within the part
of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Combine an
appropriate level of exercise with a low-fat, nutrient-rich diet packed
with fish, lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and
legumes. These foods nourish the brain and keep glucose levels steady.
Manage Stress Levels
– High stress levels are very counter-productive when it comes to
managing diabetes and blood sugar levels. When faced with a stressful
situation, the body activates the fight or flight mechanism which
includes pumping extra sugar into the blood stream so you can fight
the bear or outrun the tiger.
addition to driving up blood sugar levels, high stress increases your
appetite. The body anticipates burning more calories dealing with the
stressful event. If the stress levels remain elevated, the body stores
the extra calories not being burned as fat, which in turn reduces
insulin sensitivity. Increased blood sugars combined with increased
appetite and reduced insulin sensitivity, is a recipe for a poor
memory, heart disease, kidney problems and a host of other
problems. Anything you can do to reduce your stress levels will help
you manage your diabetes and improve your memory.
possible causes of memory loss include poor nutrition, depression, low
thyroid function, Parkinson disease and of course, Alzheimer's disease.
If you are maintaining proper glucose levels and do not have
uncontrolled blood pressure but are still suffering from memory loss,
your doctor may want to check for other possible root causes. It is
therefore important to mention any issues with memory or cognition to
your doctor as soon as you notice changes.