Dementia and type 2 diabetes are serious concerns for older adults. Both diseases are becoming epidemics in this country. The Alzheimer’s Association has become a household name, and many people know of someone who has participated in a Memory Walk. Type 2 diabetes is a disease that was once called adult onset diabetes, but that term is no longer used because younger and younger people are developing the disease. In fact, the current generation of children is the only cohort in the history of humankind at risk of not out living their parents because of obesity related diseases.
Being overweight is not good at any age, and it begins to affect the brain. “Being fat has a detrimental impact on the brain,” says Kaiser Permanente research scientist Rachel Whitmer. She is the co-author of a nine-year study of 10,276 people in Northern California that found people who are obese in middle age (body mass index of 30 or more) are 74% more likely to develop dementia than people of healthy weights.
Benefits of exercise
Physical and mental exercise can prevent type 2 diabetes and dementia. Numerous studies have proven that exercise is beneficial when it comes to diabetes. Now researchers are beginning to see the benefits of exercise when it comes to dementia. A study from Seattle Washington found people who exercised at least 3 times per week were less likely to develop dementia than those who were less active. The American Academy of Neurology recently published the result of a study of more than 700 older people in Chicago that concluded, “a cognitive active person in old age was 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than a cognitively inactive person in old age.”
Diabetes and the brain
It’s known that there are cells in the brain that sense blood sugar levels (called glucose-sensing neurons). New research shows that in type II diabetics, at least some of the neurons that are supposed to sense rises in blood sugar aren’t doing their job. Many physicians think of type II diabetes as solely a disease of the body, but we may need to start thinking about it as a disease of the brain as well.
The point is maintaining a healthy body is just as important as maintaining a healthy brain. So when you are between crossword puzzles, start jogging!
Photo credit: jeffdiogenes
About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder of InsideElder Care and author of the ByFamilies, For Families Guide to Assisted Living. He regularly speaks and advises families about how to improve their aging loved one’s quality of life. Ryan is also the president of SmartBug Media, a content marketing agency that helps companies increase leads, customers and influence. You can read more from Ryan on the SmartBug Media blog or follow him on Twitter.