How Diabetes Affects the Brain

By: Dr. Ellen Edgar  -  no responses  -  Diagnosis, Treatments


man with diabetes and neurological disorder

Diabetes affects many parts of your body, including your brain. When you have this chronic condition, abnormal blood sugar levels can have a negative impact on brain function. Understanding the effects of diabetes on your brain can help you become more informed about how to minimize these risks. 

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Having diabetes might put you at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, which causes serious problems with cognition and brain function, such as memory. Researchers have found that those with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of having Alzheimer’s, but the link between these conditions is not fully understood. Scientists have not determined if diabetes directly causes Alzheimer’s or if vascular cognitive impairment, which can occur with diabetes, is mainly responsible. When diabetes is poorly managed, you can end up with damaged blood vessels in your brain, which can increase your risk of vascular dementia. It’s also important to note that having diabetes raises your risk of developing inflammation that can cause additional damage to your brain’s blood vessels. 

Mental Function

Diabetes can have a serious effect on mental function, especially in older individuals with this disease. Having higher blood sugar levels can slow down your response time when you’re in different situations and make it harder for you to do executive functions in your daily life, such as planning. You might also have a difficult time controlling your own behavior from day to day as the effects on brain function become worse. 

Low Blood Glucose 

It’s not just high blood sugar levels that you have to worry about when you have diabetes. When your blood sugar levels drop too low, it can have an immediate impact on your brain. Low blood sugar levels can make you feel lightheaded and cause you to have trouble with coordination. You might even have a hard time walking or speaking. Sudden headaches can also occur when your blood sugar is too low. Keep in mind that if your blood sugar levels drop dangerously low, you’re at risk of having seizures and losing consciousness so it’s important to manage them safely. 

Prevention Tips

Managing diabetes is the most effective way to help prevent or lower the risk of damage or cognitive problems that are associated with this chronic condition. You can do this by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels that are not too low or too high through diet, physical activity and the use of insulin as needed. Lowering your stress levels is also important since high levels of stress can make it harder for your body to use insulin properly. This can lead to higher blood sugar levels, which puts you at risk of developing cognitive problems or vascular damage in the brain. 

If you have neurological problems that are linked to diabetes, please contact Complete Neurological Care to schedule an appointment. Our board-certified neurologists can go over treatment options with you.

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