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Diabetes and Dementia: How Are They Connected?

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How Are Diabets and Dementia Connected? in Newcastle, SW

Recently, scientists reported that high blood sugar levels raise dementia risk. If your loved one has diabetes, you can take steps to counter this possibility. If he or she has been diagnosed with dementia, you can slow cognitive decline. Take a look at how diabetes and dementia are two correlated diseases. 

Insulin Deficiency Raises Blood Sugar Levels

Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose, a type of sugar the body’s cells need for energy. It enables glucose to enter cells, much like a key opens a locked door. However, some people don’t produce enough insulin. As a result, glucose builds in the blood to an abnormal level, a condition called hyperglycaemia.

Having excessive blood sugar levels can adversely affect your elderly loved one’s health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life. If you have a senior loved one who needs help maintaining a high quality of life while ageing in place, reach out to Home Care Assistance, an in-home care provider Newcastle families can rely on. All of our care workers have current police checks, are trained in first aid, and are fully insured, there are no hidden fees, and we never ask our clients to sign long-term contracts.

Excessive Blood Sugar Levels Cause Atherosclerosis

Spiking glucose levels injure blood vessels by inflaming arterial walls. Fat particles can then adhere to the walls, causing the vessels to narrow and harden, a condition termed atherosclerosis. Rigid blood vessels can burst and bleed, producing clots that block or hinder circulation. Atherosclerosis can cause vision loss, infections, slow wound healing, kidney disease, nerve damage, stroke, pancreatic disease, and heart attacks.

Common Types of Dementia

Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are two of the most common types of dementia. In both cases, the neurons in the brain gradually die. With vascular dementia, neurons perish from lack of oxygen. As a result, several brain functions are affected, which include memory, decision-making and problem-solving skills, the ability to use appropriate words, and seeing objects in three dimensions. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia traced to abnormal brain proteins. Beta-amyloid is a fragmented protein that clumps together around neurons. When beta-amyloid accumulates, it hardens into lesions called plaques, which prevent neurons from communicating.

Neurons use oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients to function. These substances travel to cells along protein strands, organised in parallel tracks. Tau is a protein that keeps the tracks straight and aligned. When tau deteriorates, the strands get tangled and disintegrate. With their nutrition track destroyed, neurons die. In addition to cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease triggers behavioural and emotional changes such as wandering, irritability, withdrawal, apathy, depression, and vacillating moods. Activities of daily living become difficult. 

Living with a serious health condition can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in home care. Newcastle seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more.

The Causes of Dementia 

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why beta-amyloid and tau proteins malfunction. Many factors can lead to dementia, such as family history, concussions, and whiplash. Lifestyle factors that can cause cognitive decline include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep deprivation, social isolation, inactivity, obesity, and smoking. Diabetes is now being considered a potential risk factor for dementia.

The Link Between Diabetes and Dementia

With vascular dementia, elevated glucose levels injure blood vessels, reducing oxygen flow to brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease affects insulin receptors, which are gate-like structures on cell membranes. Currently, scientists believe beta-amyloid plaques cover insulin receptors, making them blind to the presence of insulin. Cloaked receptors prevent glucose from entering cells. Without this vital fuel, neurons die. Hyperglycaemia also harms the pancreas. When it detects a high glucose level, it responds by releasing more insulin. Years of overwork strains pancreatic cells to the point of death.

How to Prevent Diabetes

To protect your loved one from diabetes, bring him or her to an internist at least once every year for blood work. If your loved one is pre-diabetic, the doctor may want more frequent testing. Additionally, try to eliminate diabetic risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight.

Frequently, hyperglycaemia resolves with regular exercise and dietary changes. If possible, your loved one should engage in moderate activity for at least 10 minutes daily. Try to minimise your loved one’s consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, including sucrose, cane sugar, molasses, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated fruit juice, and honey. Also, curb his or her intake of saturated fat and salt. 

Encourage your loved one to eat fibrous foods, ideally totalling 21 grams daily for a senior woman and 30 grams daily for a senior man. Fibre grams are listed on labels of packaged foods. By tallying grams, you can help your loved one consume the recommended amount. Excellent fibre sources include fruits, legumes, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Your loved one should also eat foods high in vitamins B and D. Since dehydration concentrates blood sugar, boost your loved one’s water consumption. Your loved one’s daily water intake should be equal in volume to half his or her body weight.

How to Slow the Progression of Dementia

You can help your loved one slow cognitive decline by promoting regular exercise, healthy blood pressure, and a nutritious diet. Minimise stress and discourage the use of alcohol and smoking. Other lifestyle choices that can lower dementia risk include getting high-quality sleep, socialising and stimulating the brain regularly, and engaging in hobbies such as reading.

Medical Interventions to Prevent Diabetes

If your loved one has diabetes, keep his or her blood sugar stable with the help of medication, healthy food, and moderate activity. For Alzheimer’s disease, a doctor may prescribe medication to aid short-term memory and reduce other symptoms. A physician can also correct thyroid disorders and vitamin deficiencies that cause dementia. Follow the doctor’s treatment plan. Also, provide opportunities for exercising, socialisation, and mental stimulation.

For families living in Newcastle, NSW, respite care can be a wonderful solution when their ageing loved ones need companionship and socialisation a few hours a week or just need minor assistance with daily household tasks. At Home Care Assistance, we thrive on helping seniors maintain their independence while living in the comfort of home. To create a comprehensive in-home care plan for your ageing loved one, give us a call at (02) 4089 3000 today.

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