A recent study suggests that high blood sugar may have a negative impact on memory. German researchers recruited a group of people with no signs of memory problems and who did not have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The average age of study participants was 63.
The study participants had their blood sugar tested and did a series of memory tests. They also received brain scans that measured the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that helps with spatial navigation and the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory. In Alzheimer’s patients, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage, resulting in the memory loss and disorientation that characterize the disease.
The result? Researchers found that having higher long-term blood sugar levels was correlated to being able to recall fewer words on the memory tests. The scans also showed that participants who had higher blood sugar levels also had smaller volumes in the size of their hippocampus. This suggests that even for people with what is technically normal blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could potentially help to prevent memory problems as they age.
People with diabetes are know to have a higher risk of dementia, and while this particular study was too small to prove conclusively that lower glucose would improve memory or that high glucose directly causes memory loss, it does show a correlation.
So what can you do with that information? If you’re diabetic, monitor and maintain your blood sugar regularly, and work with your healthcare team to find a diet and exercise plan that works for you. If you’re in the normal range, eat a healthy diet that gives you a reasonable number of calories while balancing protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Not sure about your blood sugar levels? Visit your primary care doctor for a test.
And don’t forget the exercise: Physical activity trains your body to use insulin more effectively, so find an activity that you enjoy and get moving. The same healthy diet and physical activities that help your blood sugar can help your brain, too.