We would all like to age gracefully and in good health, but one health condition is becoming epidemic all over the world. In the United States, it strikes 1 in 4 Americans, or nearly 80 million people. In the U.K. it affects one-third of people, and the figures are comparable throughout the developed world. More and more children and teens are also being affected. That condition is diabetes or pre-diabetes, and research shows it can cause your brain to age 5 years faster than the brains of people with normal blood sugar.
Dr. Joseph Mercola says one of the main maladies associated with diabetes is an increased risk of dementia. Patients who are diagnosed with diabetes during their 50s will have an increased risk of mental decline in their 70s. Research has shown that type 2 diabetics lose more brain volume, especially gray matter, than normal. Atrophy of the brain is another contributing factor in dementia.
Elizabeth Selvin, PhD, MPH, is an associate professor of epidemiology at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a lead author of one study. She says,
The lesson is that to have a healthy brain when you’re 70, you need to eat right and exercise when you’re 50.
There is a substantial cognitive decline associated with diabetes, pre-diabetes and poor glucose control in people with diabetes. And we know how to prevent or delay the diabetes associated with this decline…”
Memory decline and dementia are accelerated by a number of factors. One of those is the health of blood vessels, and there is a known link between heart disease and dementia. According to Dr. Mercola, “The test that predicts your future risk of heart disease is better at predicting your risk of dementia than the specific demetia-risk test.”
In one study, researchers found diabetics suffer a 19 percent greater decline in mental acuity than non-diabetics over a period of 20 years. People with pre-diabetes also had a much higher risk of memory decline. The study links decline in memory in diabetics with damage to small blood vessels of the brain.
The best way to protect against cerebral blood vessel damage is prevention or control of diabetes and high blood pressure, stopping smoking, and improving diet and exercise. The best predictor of type 2 diabetes is obesity. More than two-thirds of American adults, and one-third of teens and children, are overweight or obese.
Obesity is closely linked with lifestyle choices, of course, particularly eating processed foods and eating too often and too much. Interestingly, the poorest Americans have the highest obesity rate, probably because they eat diets high in processed foods. Dr. Mercola says that processed foods, which are high in carbohydrates and low in healthy fats, “play a significant role in metabolic dysfunction, weight gain, and associated health problems like diabetes, heart disease and dementia.”