Yampa Valley Medical Center presents Taking Care of Me, its free monthly family health program at 6 p.m. June 1 in Conference Room 1. The topic is "Memory Loss and Diabetes: Is There a Link?" Emmalie Conner, of the Alzheimer's Association, will be the presenter.
Did you know that what's good for your heart also is good for your brain? We can see this connection when we take a closer look at diabetes.
Nearly 21 million people in the United States have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has been linked to a lack of exercise and being overweight. Some adults have a higher risk than others, including those over the age 65, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans.
Throughout time, if diabetes is not controlled, the disease can cause damage to major organs. Type 2 diabetes also puts people at risk for illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and nerve problems.
There are three things people can do to help cut the risk of diabetes: lose weight, exercise and make healthy food choices.
Type 2 diabetes also can harm the brain. Compared to people without diabetes, more people with diabetes get dementia. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, followed by vascular dementia. Researchers have discovered a link between diabetes and both of these other diseases.
A person with dementia develops progressive memory loss and has difficulty with other thinking and reasoning. These symptoms are not caused by normal aging. Researchers don't know yet what causes Alzheimer's disease or exactly how it is connected to diabetes, but they do believe there is a link. Although Alzheimer's is a disease that causes brain cell death, researchers know that diabetes also harms the brain in several ways:
Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Damaged blood vessels in the brain can contribute to Alzheimer's.
Too much insulin can upset the balance of chemicals in the brain. Some of those changes are thought to trigger Alzheimer's disease.
High blood sugar causes inflammation, which may damage brain cells and help Alzheimer's to start.
Researchers currently are looking closely at medications for Type 2 diabetes to see if they may help prevent or treat Alzheimer's.
Eating healthy foods, exercising and managing your diabetes and other medical conditions may help some people offset the severity of Alzheimer's symptoms or may even delay the onset of the disease.
If you notice that a family member seems unusually disoriented in their own home or is having trouble remembering things, making decisions or completing everyday tasks, it is a good idea to seek medical advice.
The Alzheimer's Association also is available with hope and help. Counselors are available 24 hours a day at the Association's Helpline 800-272-3900 or online at www.alz.org/co where families can get answers to questions, information, education and referrals, as well as someone who simply will listen.
Emmalie Conner is the Northern Colorado regional director for the Alzheimer's Association.