Memory Loss

Memory loss can be caused by poorly controlled diabetes
Memory loss can be caused by poorly controlled diabetes

Diabetes and memory loss are closely linked, and poorly controlled diabetes can cause memory loss. The brain runs on glucose and brain glucose storage is limited.

To maintain normal brain functioning, people with diabetes need a constant supply of glucose from their blood.

Memory loss and reduced brain functioning occur during periods of high blood glucose (hyperglycemia) and low blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

Both extremes may contribute to the development of memory problems amongst people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

I’m diabetic and I feel I may have memory loss, what are the symptoms?

Diabetes can cause memory loss and confusion.

Diabetes is also linked with depression and alzheimer’s disease. Memory loss caused by poorly controlled blood sugar (glucose related memory loss) is a risk for people with diabetes.

How does diabetes affect memory loss?

A blood-brain barrier regulates the transport of nutrients, including glucose, into the brain. These nutrients leave the brain as chemically charged particles and by-products of the brain metabolising.

If insufficient blood glucose, or too much blood glucose, reaches the blood-brain barrier, memory loss may develop.

So too much or too little blood glucose can affect the way we think?

The brain has a high metabolic rate and requirement for constant sugar. This fuels neurotransmission, which affects learning and memory.

A lapse in the system causes a reduction in the ability to remember things.

In cases of uncontrolled diabetes, prolonged high or low blood glucose levels make the hippocampus malfunction, which may influence concentration, attention, memory and information processing.

So avoiding memory loss is simply a matter of keeping blood sugar stable?

Good diabetes management (keeping blood sugar stable, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet) is the key to avoiding memory loss.

However, cortisol, an essential hormone in the body that is strongly linked with diabetes, may also affect memory function. Higher and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream may affect the brain and cause memory loss.

So stress and diabetes are linked with memory loss?

Stress is strongly linked with cortisol (see above), meaning a link between all three conditions may be drawn. Managing diabetes can be stressful – cortisol levels are affected by stress – therefore stress may play a role in memory loss and brain function. Managing stress is one of the key ways for people with diabetes to avoid memory loss.

What about high blood pressure, diabetes and memory loss?

Diabetes and blood pressure are strongly linked. Increase pressure on the blood vessels can cause strokes or TIA, which in turn can affect memory.

Can diabetes complications affect memory loss?

In some cases, diabetes can affect the nervous system and heart function.

In these cases, blood circulation may be affected and blood supply to the brain may be interrupted.

These complications could therefore lead to memory loss.

How do I avoid memory loss?

Good diabetes management, closely following your health professional’s advice and medication prescription, avoiding or managing stress, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle are all ways to ensure against memory loss caused by diabetes, or complications of diabetes.

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