June is Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive debilitating disease that currently affects over 5 million Americans, and that number is continuously increasing. Unfortunately, so many Americans are unaware about one important risk factor for AD: Diabetes. In fact, Alzheimer’s is now often called Type 3 Diabetes. With over 34 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, a chronic inflammatory disease state of elevated blood sugar, we need to raise the alarm.
In AD, the brain stops responding to insulin, the hormone that allows our cells to use the sugar in our blood for fuel. Sugar is the preferred source of energy for our brain. In addition, insulin and insulin-like growth factors also regulate survival of neurons (brain cells) and plasticity (brain’s ability to change and adapt). In other words, insulin and insulin-like growth factors are required for learning and memory. The good news, however, is that a study published in 2018, which followed 5,189 people in the United Kingdom over the course of 10 years, found that efforts to control blood sugar levels may prevent brain function decline.
One of the Principles of Naturopathic medicine is Prevention. Our other Principles include Doctor as Teacher (educating our patients), Treat the Whole Person, Identify and Treat the Cause, and believing in the body’s Innate Ability to Heal. While we may not have enough information to stop or prevent all cases of AD, many of which are genetic, we can certainly reduce the number of cases by applying our Principles. It takes educating and encouraging our patients to stay away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) and to make basic healthy diet and lifestyle changes (Prevention!).
The Alzheimer’s Association has listed 10 warning signs and symptoms of AD. If you notice any of them, do not ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
1) Memory loss that disrupts daily life
2) Challenges in planning or solving problems
3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks
4) Confusion with time or place
5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6) New problems with words in speaking or writing
7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8) Decreased or poor judgment
9) Withdrawal from work or social activities
10) Changes in mood and personality