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High Blood Sugar Levels May Increase Memory Problems

October 23, 2013

3 Min Read
High Blood Sugar Levels May Increase Memory Problems

MINNEAPOLISIndividuals with high blood sugar levels may increase their risk for future memory problems even if they are not diabetic, according to a new study published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved 141 people with an average age of 63 years who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is also called impaired glucose tolerance. People who were overweight, drank more than three-and-a-half servings of alcohol per day, and those who had memory and thinking impairment were not included in the study.

Participants memory skills were tested, along with their blood glucose levels. Participants also had brain scans to measure the size of the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory. People with lower blood sugar levels were more likely to have better scores on the memory tests. On a test where participants needed to recall a list of 15 words 30 minutes after hearing them, recalling fewer words was associated with higher blood sugar levels.

For example, an increase of about 7 mmol/mol of a long-term marker of glucose control called HbA1c went along with recalling two fewer words. People with higher blood sugar levels also had smaller volumes in the hippocampus.

These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age," said study author Agnes Flöel, MD, of Charité University Medicine in Berlin, Germany. Strategies such as lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity should be tested."

The findings support recent studies linking blood sugar levels to brain health.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found higher blood sugar levels are linked to an increased risk of dementia, even in those that do not have diabetes. The study was conducted by Group Health and the University of Washington. Blood sugar levels averaged over a 5-year period were associated with rising risk for developing dementia, this included more than 2,000 Group Health patients aged 65 and older in the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study.

It was found that in people without diabetes, risk for dementia was 18% higher for people with an average glucose level of 115 mg/dl, compared to those with an average glucose level of 100 mg/dl. People with diabetes, who generally have high blood sugar level, had a 40% higher risk for dementia when blood glucose levels reached 190 mg/dl compared to those with an average level of 160 mg/dl. Likewise, other studies have found evidence that individuals with impaired glucose tolerance often show signs of impaired cognitive function.

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