Dementia: the loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory, and reasoning to the point that it interferes with activities of daily living. Dementia is not a disease itself, but rather a display of symptoms that can have various causes including Alzheimer's disease.  With our aging population, Alzheimer's-related dementia is rising.  This rise, has far-reaching implications on our burdened health care system, not to mention the impact on countless family, friends and care-givers of those afflicted.  [1] The New England Journal of Medicine- the world's most prestigious medical journal- has recently published a study linking pre-diabetic blood sugar levels (fasting blood sugar levels of 6.4 mmol/L) to an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. [2]  A diagnosis of diabetes isn't made until fasting blood sugar levels reach 7.0 mmol/L.

This means that you do not have to have a diagnosis of diabetes to be at higher risk of developing dementia.

More than ever, there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on diabetes prevention and blood-sugar-balancing diet and lifestyle modifications.  It is clear that waiting for a diabetes diagnosis may already be too late.  The good news is a naturopathic doctor is trained to work with an individual to balance blood sugar levels gently, effectively and naturally.  We are also trained to recognize risk factors for diabetes and may ask you to have your blood sugar levels checked.  Naturopathic doctors can also work with people who have diabetes to lower requirements for drugs and reduce complications like dementia, heart disease and eye problems.

How do I know if I am at increased risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes? You are over the age of 40; you having a close relative (parent or sibling) who has type 2 diabetes;  you are of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent; you have a history of impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose; you already dislay some evidence of the complications of diabetes, such as eye, nerve or kidney problems; you have heart disease; you have a history of gestational diabetes mellitus;  you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and/or you are overweight especially around your waist.

Use the on-line Diabetes Risk Calculator (CANRISK) here

When should I be checked for pre-diabetes/diabetes?

Your naturopathic doctor or medical doctor should check your fasting blood glucose levels and HbA1c levels every 3 years if you are over the age of 40 or if you are at high risk.  Your ND or MD will check your levels sooner or more frequently if you have additional risk factors or are at very high risk of developing diabetes.  Additionally, your naturopathic doctor may  check blood sugar levels as part of routine wellness testing to catch a problem before it starts.

Final Word: Elevated blood sugar levels raise the risk of a number of health problems including dementia.  Do not wait until you are given a diabetes diagnosis.  Take charge of your health to live life to the fullest rather than spend your golden years suffering.

References:

1. WebMD (Online). Dementia.  Available at: http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-dementia.  Retrieved August 12, 2013.

2. Glucose levels and risk of dementia. NEJM 2013. Available online: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1215740.

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