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Dementia and Diabetes: How Are They Connected?

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Approximately 21 million people in the United States live with diabetes. Many of the complications of uncontrolled diabetes are well known. However, researchers have recently begun to gain a better understanding of how the disorder affects the brain. The body’s response to diabetes may lead to dementia for various reasons. 

Hypoglycemia Complications

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that people with diabetes who have serious hypoglycemic episodes that require hospitalization were at a greater risk of developing dementia. Brain cells need glucose to function properly. When blood sugar levels drop below normal levels, the cells are deprived of the nutrition they require and damage occurs. When dementia develops, seniors are highly likely to experience more incidents of hypoglycemia secondary to not having the cognitive ability to properly manage their diet and medications. 

A dangerous cycle begins, as each time a hypoglycemic situation occurs, the rate of neuronal damage also increases. Dementia continues progressing over time if steps are not taken to ensure the senior diabetic receives the proper care. When diabetic older adults begin showing signs of dementia, they need the assistance of family members or other caregivers to maintain their cognitive and physical health. 

Dementia can be challenging for aging adults to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional caregivers. In New Hampshire, home care providers can benefit aging adults in a variety of ways. From cooking nutritious meals to offering timely medication reminders, the dedicated caregivers at Home Care Assistance are available to help your elderly loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Vascular Dementia

Uncontrolled diabetes that causes high blood sugar levels over extended lengths of time can damage blood vessels and contribute to cardiovascular disease and strokes. Elevated blood sugar encourages plaque formation within blood vessels, which interferes with blood flow. Chemical processes that take place during hyperglycemia also cause an increased release of fatty acids and inflammation. 

When blood flow slows or becomes blocked, brain cells do not receive the oxygen and nutrients needed to stay healthy, which can lead to dementia. Blood vessel damage may also occur in the brain, which has the potential for permanent brain cell damage and subsequent cognitive impairment. To prevent permanent vascular damage, scientists recommend that seniors with diabetes maintain blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. 

If your senior loved one needs help managing an illness or assistance with daily tasks, make sure you choose a top-rated home care agency. New Hampshire Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life in the golden years. From the mentally stimulating activities in our Cognitive Therapeutics Method to our friendly Care Managers who are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, we offer a wide array of high-quality at-home care services.

Insulin Resistance

For many, insulin resistance is the first step toward developing type 2 diabetes. During this phase, the pancreas continues producing and releasing insulin. However, for reasons not fully understood, cells throughout the body do not respond to the insulin and absorb glucose. In response, the pancreas produces more insulin, which may force glucose into the cells. Over time, the issue can lead to dementia. 

Insulin resistance stimulates the excessive activity of an enzyme known as glycogen synthase kinase-3. An increase in this enzyme has been linked to causing tau proteins to clump and tangle in the brain. Increased levels of insulin divert insulin-degrading enzymes from destroying beta-amyloid proteins, which are also associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s development. The enzymes work overtime to reduce insulin levels instead of protecting the brain from the harmful proteins.

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 care. New Hampshire seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more. Call Home Care Assistance at (603) 471-3004 to schedule a free in-home consultation.