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Does Diabetes Cause Memory Loss?

Kulbhushaan Raghuvanshi
Memory loss has long been associated with Alzheimer's disease, but can the body's inability to process insulin lead to memory loss? This Story explains the relation between memory loss and diabetes.
Diabetes affects almost 346 million people worldwide, and the number is expected to grow by 100 million by the year 2020. Annually it affects more than 23.9 million people in the US alone. It is a disease which progresses by damaging major blood vessels, thereby causing irreparable damage to several organs in the body. This silent killer causes many complications in the body, but there has been a lot of speculation about whether it affects the memory of a person affected by it or not.

The Link Between Diabetes and Memory Loss

Most of us know that diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to produce the hormone insulin, which converts the sugar in the body into energy. According to leading medical experts, diabetes can be a cause of memory loss due to its ability to affect blood vessels of the brain and the body. Its various side effects of diabetes can also hamper one's learning and reasoning abilities if not controlled in time.
According to a recent study, experts found that people who are in the pre-diabetes stage or can't process blood sugar normally are at a risk of suffering from poor memory or memory loss. Research has also shown that diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease, compared to those who do not suffer from diabetes.
However, according to new research printed in the Medical Journal of American Academy of Neurology, 2009, experts have suggested that people suffering from both diseases (Diabetes and Alzheimer's) will have memory loss at a slower rate than those with only Alzheimer's alone.
Amazingly, this suggestion was proven right when a very fascinating study was conducted. In the study, almost 608 people suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer's were observed by researchers for over four years. Their reasoning and thinking skills were tested twice a year, and 63 people from 608 were diabetic.
Before the study, people with and without diabetes had secured the same scores in various cognition tests. Over a period of six months it was found that the rate of cell damage in those with Alzheimer's and diabetes was less than those with only Alzheimer's. The reason for this is still not clear.

Diabetes and Memory Loss in the Elderly

Along with other complications, diabetes is seen as a potential cause for memory loss in the elderly. A team headed by Vera Novak, MD, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) researched for 5 years and identified that diabetes is a prime cause for chronic inflammation of the brain in the elderly.
This inflammation affects blood vessels and gradually weakens major brain tissues. It starts by affecting the gray matter which affects decision-making, reasoning capabilities and makes the individual unable to perform the simplest of tasks.
Medical experts believe that from the age of 65, an average person's brain starts to shrink about one percent every year, but for a diabetic patient the number can be as high as 12%.

Dealing with Diabetes

There is no known cure available for the disease, but the complications can be kept under control if people follow some basic steps.
  • Keep a check on blood sugar levels on a regular basis and never miss out on a doctor's appointments.
  • Good diabetes management means exercising regularly and eating healthy. Stay away from alcohol, and fattening and sugary foods.
  • People suffering from diabetes should take their medication at regular intervals and eat everything in moderation.
  • Stress is also a potential cause for diabetes, so be stress free and try to do things which make you happy and relaxed.
WHO reports that the treatment and diagnosis of diabetes costs people more than $100 billion every year. This silent killer can affect anyone in the world, but it is most likely to affect people who are overweight, under a lot of stress, and indulge in unhealthy eating. These factors should be controlled in time so that diabetes and subsequent memory loss can be prevented.