Diabetes and the Brain
Living healthy to manage your diabetes probably benefits your brain also. Properly managing blood sugar and other aspects of your health may reduce the odds of having a stroke, developing dementia, or developing other conditions that affect the brain.
How Diabetes Affects the Brain
There are hundreds of brain conditions that occur as a natural part of aging. Diabetes appears to have the ability to accelerate about twenty of them. The most obvious brain problem that diabetes contributes to is stroke. Other common brain conditions in diabetics include Alzheimer’s disease and the decline of cognitive or mental abilities.
However, scientists still do not know a lot about what causes these declines. They can use MRIs and other types of imaging scans and actually see declines in brain activity over time. Nevertheless, the complexity of the brain still limits them from knowing exactly what is causing problems within the diabetic brain.
Diabetes and the Blood-Brain Barrier
Scientists are just begining to understand the affect of diabetes on the blood-brain barrier. For years diabetic researchers did not pay very much attention to the affect that diabetes may have on the blood-brain barrier. However, some new research is prompting scientists to take a closer look at how diabetes affects this natural protection mechanism.
Not all nutrients and medications can get into your brain. The blood-brain barrier prevents your blood from delivering many chemicals there.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a security layer or system that exists all over the brain. It uses a number of mechnisms to identify chemicals, vitamins, and energy sources. When it is functioning properly it allows good things in and keeps bad things out.
Much of the BBB does not even let blood through. Instead nutrients the brain needs, such as glucose, are passed from the blood to a gatekeeper cell in the blood-brain barrier. The cell decides whether or not to pass it through. Diabetes tends to wreck havoc in the smallest blood vessels in the body. Microscopic blood vesels in your eyes, kidneys, and heart gradually clog up.Therefore it is plausable that diabetes could be eroding the small mechanisms of the BBB over time.
Natural aging also erodes the BBB. It has been hard for scientists to distinguish between age-related and diabetes-related breakdown of the BBB. However, some studies over the last decade have started to convince scientists that diabetes damages the BBB in some people.
How can I keep my brain healthy?
Because we are just beginning to understand how diabetes affects people’s brains, we can only speculate that the same strategies for keeping your kidneys, heart, feet, and eyes healthy will also protect your brain. As you exert the extra effort to measure your blood sugar throughout the day, eat nutritious food, and engage in exercise, you are likely enhancing your brain’s health too.