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Type II Diabetes and Brain Health

Over 20 years ago researchers discovered a connection between diabetes, particularly type II diabetes, and dementia in older adults. Prior to this discovery, scientists had already noticed a positive association between vascular circulation and cognitive function as the inability of the vascular system to circulate oxygen throughout the body, including the brain, correlated with cognitive decline. During increased periods of intellectual engagement, there is an increase in the flow of oxygen rich blood in the areas of the brain that are being activated. Individuals with type II diabetes have a marked reduction in the flexibility in the blood vessels which impact the ability for these vessels to accommodate this increased blood flow.

So what does all of this mean? Research has shown these connections, but if our families members suffer with diabetes or other conditions that affect circulation like hypertension, aren’t we at a higher risk for the same fate? How do we prevent our family members from getting dementia if they have type II diabetes? Or is this something we can even do? What about those of us in the middle generation and our children who don’t have either diabetes or dementia yet?

There are some answers, but there are also many more questions out there. The good news is that type II diabetes has been found to be a preventable disease. With early intervention and proper diet, exercise and lifestyle management, no one is bound to suffer the same fate as their family members. This also means that the dementia that is commonly associated with type II diabetes may also be preventable. For those that have type II diabetes, if interventions are made before symptoms of dementia are observed, it may be possible to reduce those lifestyle risk factors and prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline and dementia.

The research team at the USC Healthier Vessels, Healthier Brain Study are working to better understand how blood sugar levels and the body’s ability to absorb and use glucose and/or insulin affects capillaries, brain cells, and memory function.

If you are over 60, have diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or high cholesterol, consider participating in a comprehensive research program called USC Healthier Vessels, Healthier Brain Study. For more information call Lina D’Orazio, Ph.D. (323) 442-7680 or Maria Hernandez (323) 442-6845 at the USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. You can find more information about the study at: http://adrc.usc.edu/Healthier-Brain-Study.