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Possible Link Between High Blood Sugar and Dementia

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(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

(Source: KDKA-TV) Dr. Maria Simbra
Dr. Maria Simbra is an Emmy award-winning medical journalist, who...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Your blood sugar tests may be completely normal but if the readings are at the upper end of the normal range, it could affect your brain.

 “It makes sense, blood sugar, even borderline high, probably isn’t good for your brain,” says Carol Schramke, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Allegheny General Hospital.

Past studies have shown a link between brain atrophy, or shrinkage, and dementia, and type two diabetes, where blood sugar levels are clearly elevated. 

“In general, the more atrophy you have, the higher the risk is that you’ll develop a condition like Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Schramke.

To see if high normal blood sugars might affect the brain similarly, researchers in Australia looked at about 250 people in their early 60s. They had normal blood sugars to start, and had brain scans at the beginning of the study and four years later.

Even with a normal, but higher fasting blood sugar, shrinkage was noted in parts of the brain important for memory.

“Gray hair, wrinkles, that’s a normal part of aging, as is atrophy. You have less tissue to spare,” explains Dr. Schranke. “Sometimes you can have a very ugly looking brain that looks like there’s a lot of atrophy, but you’re still functioning well. But in general, there is a correlation, not a perfect correlation, between how much atrophy you show and how you function.”

High blood pressure, smoking, alcohol use, and other factors were taken into account. The end analysis is that high normal blood sugar accounts for six to ten percent of the brain shrinkage.

Exercising, losing weight, and a modest diet are all things you can do to keep your brain healthy. This study suggests this may be especially important if your blood sugar is borderline high. 

Dr. Schramke adds many of these studies are done in attempt to find that one single thing that will predict who will get Alzheimer’s disease, when really, it’s probably a number of things.

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