No one likes forgetting things, folks, and it’s something that happens to many people more and more as they age. Personally, when I forget do something or the name of a famous person, it almost serves as a little unwelcome reminder than I am not getting any younger!
However, I recently learned that blood sugar elevation–even in people with pre-diabetes or those who are still in the “normal” range–can actually contribute to age-related memory decline. We already knew that people who have type 2 diabetes having are higher risk of developing a cognitive impairment such as dementia, but a newer study had some interesting results: the participants, in their 60s on average, who consistently scored lower on memory tests were the ones who had the higher blood sugar levels.
This study, published in the Neurology Journal, found that for every increase of 7 mmol/mol in a participant’s hemoglobin A1c test results, two fewer words were recalled on memory tests (https://n.neurology.org/content/81/20/1746). People who had higher blood sugar levels also had a lower hippocampus volume, and this is the region of the brain that is vital to memory. Overall, the study authors concluded that even if a person doesn’t have pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes, they may experience negative cognitive effects if they have higher blood sugar levels.
To see where your blood sugar stands, you can do a simple and inexpensive test via your doctor to find out what your fasting insulin level is. Normal levels are below five, but many experts believe that under three is ideal. If you have levels above three, the most effective way to reduce it is by eliminating some sugar from your diet.
Keep in mind that sugar comes from many places, and it may not always be obvious that you are consuming a lot of it. Some coffee drinks, for example, are chock full of sugar but may not appear to at first glance. Sugar is also called many different things on food labels, so take the time to get familiar with its many monikers so you’re not consuming it unwittingly.
Of course, factors other than food can impact your blood sugar levels. Stress can raise it, for example, and exercise can lower it. Try working out and lowering your stress levels to help you in your quest to lower your blood sugar and keep your memory sharp!