How To Reduce Your Chances Of Dementia By 42%. Maybe.

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Reduce Your Chances of Dementia by 42%. Maybe.
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How’s your blood sugar? If your blood still contains a higher than normal amount of sugar after a whole night's sleep and no breakfast, you may be classified as prediabetic; a step towards full-blown type 2 diabetes. It’s estimated that eighty-eight million people in the US are prediabetic, and 84% of that jaw-dropping number are ignorant about their condition. That’s one in three people at risk of diabetes, a condition strongly associated with cognitive health issues.

Recent research from the UK has uncovered what many people have suspected for some time; that high blood sugar may be playing a role in cognitive decline before type 2 diabetes takes over.

The study

Scientists at the University College London (UCL) delved into the dataset of 500,000 people with an average age of 58. They discovered that prediabetic people increased their chances of cognitive decline by 42% over four years. In their group, vascular dementia, caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, was raised by 54%. Even after age, low socioeconomic status, smoking, body mass index (BMI), and cardiovascular disease were accounted for, these numbers remained.

The researchers cannot definitely say that high, fasted blood sugar causes these brain illnesses because their study is observational, not a clinical trial. However, given the existing and increasingly strong evidence that diabetes mellitus increases the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, it’s not an enormous leap of faith.

...here’s the thing, do you need to wait until you’re told definitively one way or the other. What’s the worst that can happen?

The next step

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The UCL study is unique in its findings because the links between prediabetes and cognitive decline have not been assessed until now. To sharpen the correlations, another large data set of people will need to be examined. If the same links exist, researchers will devise a clinical trial to seek out what the mechanism/s may be. For what it’s worth, here are my two pennies.

Hyperglycaemia, chronically high blood sugar, is associated with unfavourable blood clotting in patients with and without diabetes. Vascular dementia is caused by a reduced blood flow to certain parts of the brain. Sugary blood, seen in prediabetes and diabetes, becomes more viscous and sticky, making it inadequate at delivering vital nutrients and oxygen to parts of the body supplied by tiny blood vessels including areas of the brain.

The state of prediabetes is a reversible one, so why wait to be told the mechanisms?

What can you do about it?

Diet and lifestyle changes are your knights in shining armour here and will help you reverse troublesome high blood sugar. Try removing junk foods, which tend to be very high in sugars and low in nutrients. For the most part, I recommend people stop snacking because that’s where junk foods sneak into your diet, usurping real-food meals. Eat whole foods, born and grown. Don’t fear ancient fats, only modern ones. Try intermittent fasting if you like; it’s easy but demands enough nutrients, including protein, during your eating window. Count nutrients, not calories. Reconnect with your best ally the kitchen. If you hate food prep, listen to an audiobook or a podcast. I actively seek jobs when I’m neck-deep in a good book.

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Try and exercise daily, even if it’s a walk around the block, don’t compare yourself to others in this. Consistency is the only magic potion. Get outside into the daylight, every day if you can. Prioritize sleep; a good night’s sleep actually improves your metabolism and reduces the chances of eating junk foods the next day.

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A whole lotta ‘associations'

Prediabetes is, in part, a disease of high blood sugar and is associated with cognitive decline. That doesn’t mean it’s causing it. The studies I’ve linked herein provide us with clues, not hard evidence. But here’s the thing, do you need to wait until you’re told definitively one way or the other. What’s the worst that can happen? You change your diet and lifestyle, lose weight and improve your health and longevity only to discover years later that prediabetes isn’t a factor in cognitive illness. Damn it, you’ve improved your health and quality of life!

Or, you change your diet and lifestyle and discover that prediabetes is a factor. Phew.

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Tim Rees is a registered nutritionist writing about health, nutrition & my battles with chronic disease. For other blog posts of his, head to his blog. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.