By Dena Schmidt
(NaturalHealth365) Diabetes and high blood sugar is at epidemic proportions in the U.S. According to the CDC, around 29 million Americans – 9.3 percent of the population – have diabetes, which is characterized by high blood sugar. Excess blood sugar can lead to a host of health issues including heart and kidney disease as well as eye issues (including blindness) and nerve and artery problems.
However, researchers across the U.S. have found that there is yet another reason to avoid high blood sugar: it can also have detrimental effects to brain health. Dementia, memory loss and cognitive deterioration are some of the brain health risks, especially to older individuals.
The link between high blood sugar and poor brain health
Ideal blood sugar is below 100 mg per deciliter of blood mg/dl following an eight hour fast. Blood sugar above 126 mg/dl means that you have diabetes. About 80 million Americans have what is called pre-diabetes, which is in between those two numbers.
A recent New England Journal of Medicine study links high blood sugar with a higher risk of developing dementia. This was found to be true even in persons not in the diabetic range. The study was authored by Dr. David Nathan of Harvard Medical School and the Diabetes Center and Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital’s director.
For the study, a team of researchers across the U.S. examined blood sugar levels in over 2,000 adults with an average age of 76. The majority of these participants were not diabetic. Researchers found that elevated blood sugar at any level increased the risk of dementia, but the higher the number, the great the risk of damage to brain heath.
While the study authors aren’t sure why, they speculate this is due to the higher blood sugar causing increased levels of vascular disease; however, there might also be metabolic factors such as insulin resistance affecting brain cells.
Lowering blood sugar naturally
Fortunately, high blood sugar can be tamed naturally through dietary changes and exercise. Reducing the consumption of foods that are high in sugar, carbohydrates and starch is one of the most effective ways to get started with lowering blood sugar levels. Cutting intake of foods like candy, cookies, cakes, soda, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, corn and highly refined grains can assist with combating high blood sugar. Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup.
Eating more vegetables, fruits and lean protein instead can create a healthy diet and lifestyle. Exercising and losing weight if needed is highly beneficial as well. Getting just 20 minutes of exercise per day can make a profound difference in body and brain health. Going for a walk after a meal has both overall health and blood sugar lowering effects.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day for adult women and nine for men. But, of course, most natural health experts recommend way less sugar in the diet per day.
Obviously, those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic would be smart to meet with an integrative physician that appreciates the healing power of nutrition to design a suitable plan of action. Above all, don’t ignore the signs of poor health.