Blood Glucose And Your Brain

Blood Glucose And Your Brain


Most of us don’t think much about our brains: we count on it to do the thinking for us. But new research is helping us understand more about the effects diabetes might have on your brain.

Your Brain And Diabetes

be-informedAlzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out simple tasks.

Like many other cells in your body, brain cells use glucose for fuel. Because your brain is always working, even when you sleep, it needs a large amount of fuel for energy. In fact, your brain uses about twice as much glucose as any other organ in your body. The glucose comes from the food you eat and is carried to your brain through the blood stream.

You may have noticed that when your blood glucose is either above or below your target, you cannot think very clearly. You may feel slow or groggy, you may not be able to think of a word, or you may become confused. Keeping a steady source of the right amount of glucose is key to keeping your brain working correctly. Poor blood glucose levels are linked to poor thinking, learning and memory. Age also plays a role: an older brain needs more glucose than a younger one to do the same tasks.

While glucose is a big part of the story, insulin is also very important for brain function, especially learning and memory. Like other cells in your body, brain cells need insulin to help absorb glucose. Insulin also keeps the blood vessels that supply the brain healthy — and can help prevent a build-up of harmful proteins in the brain.

Low insulin levels in the brain mean reduced function. Just like other cells in your body, your brain cells can become insulin resistant. When insulin cannot do its job in your brain, learning and memory may be affected. Over time, proteins can build up and lead to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Your Brain And Diabetes

People with diabetes are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those without. But, the good news is that there are things you can do to lower your risk:

1. keep your blood glucose and blood pressure levels as close to normal as possible. This will help maintain the health of the blood vessels in your brain.

2. Exercise. This can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and may reverse some of its early effects. Exercise helps you manage diabetes, stress and depression. You’ll also look better, feel better and think better.

3. Eat right. Some studies show that what you eat over a lifetime can affect both the structure and function of your brain. For example, foods with omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish like sardines and salmon) help neurons in the brain work better.

Most people think that whether you get Alzheimer’s disease is just the luck of the draw or something in your genes. And it is true that both of these do have an effect—just like in diabetes. But, if you take action now to lower your risk, you can keep both your body and mind healthy.


By Martha Funnell, MS, RN, CDE

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