Controlling blood sugar in older people could reduce dementia risk, study finds

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A global team of scientists led by Monash University researchers recently conducted a study to understand the relationship between blood sugar control in older adults with type 2 diabetes and the risk of developing dementia.

The team utilized a vast array of data from the healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

The study observed more than 250,000 individuals aged 50 or older with type 2 diabetes and tracked their blood sugar levels for roughly six years, monitoring how many developed dementia.

The scientists found that higher blood sugar levels were associated with a higher risk of developing dementia. Specifically, those whose blood sugar levels remained 9% or higher most of the time were at the greatest risk.

Interestingly, the study also suggested that overly aggressive blood sugar control could be detrimental, especially for older people.

This aligns with the guidelines of the American Diabetes Association, American Geriatrics Society, Endocrine Society, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, all of which advise physicians to balance the risks and benefits of blood sugar control for each patient individually.

The study concluded that while controlling blood sugar levels in older people with type 2 diabetes can help reduce the risk of developing dementia, physicians need to avoid over-control, particularly in older patients who might be more susceptible to harm.

Instead, physicians should collaborate with each patient to develop the most suitable treatment plan, considering their unique needs and circumstances.

Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in Older Adults

Preventing type 2 diabetes is essential for all age groups, including older adults. The following are some strategies older individuals can adopt to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Older adults should work with their healthcare providers to identify a healthy weight goal and a plan to achieve it.

Exercise regularly: Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and improve overall health.

Follow a healthy diet: Consuming a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Monitor blood sugar levels: Regular monitoring is crucial, especially for individuals with a family history of diabetes or other risk factors.

Quit smoking: Smoking increases the risk of several health conditions, including type 2 diabetes. Quitting can significantly reduce this risk.

Manage stress: High stress levels can elevate blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Techniques like meditation and yoga can help manage stress.

Get enough sleep: Poor or insufficient sleep can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Aiming for seven to eight hours of sleep per night is recommended.

It’s vital that older adults consult with a healthcare provider before making significant lifestyle changes to ensure safety and appropriateness.

By implementing these tips, older adults can lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and enhance their overall health and well-being.

If you care about blood sugar, please read studies about why blood sugar is high in the morning, and how to cook sweet potatoes without increasing blood sugar.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about low choline intake linked to higher dementia risk, and how eating nuts can affect your cognitive ability.

The study was led by Chris Moran et al and published in JAMA Neurology.

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