Alzheimer’s disease’s relationship to type 2 diabetes is proven in several scientific reports. This discovery underlines the need to control blood sugar.Type 2 diabetes can also cause vascular dementia according to Mayo Clinic. The symptoms are difficult to distinguish from Alzheimer’s as they both cause cognitive loss. Some medical experts believe one fuels the other.
Reduced blood flow to the brain causes vascular dementia. It’s not a stretch to believe diabetes circulatory problems that begin in feet and legs causing neuropathy could work their way up to the brain.
Not all memory loss is a symptom of Alzheimer’s. There are several conditions as we age that are absent mindedness rather than Alzheimer’s. These come under that broad heading of “senior moment.”
The Alzheimer’s Association lists 10 early warning signs on its website.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life includes forgetting recently learned information or asking for the same information repeatedly. Forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later is an age-related change.
- Reduced concentration presents challenges in planning or solving problems in something as simple as following a recipe or keeping track of finances. An age-related change may include making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
- Daily tasks may be difficult at home, work or at leisure. Family members and friends should watch for this one. I had a friend who drove eight hours out of his way to get home from a fishing trip. Sadly it was his last fishing trip. He was in his late fifties at the time. If someone just needs help setting controls on a cellphone or home entertainment unit, that’s age related.
- Confusion about the day of the week is age related but people with Alzheimer’s lose track of dates, seasons and passage of time according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Vision problems may be a sign of Alzheimer’s. These may include difficulty reading or judging distance making it difficult to drive. Vision change because of cataracts or age related macular degeneration is something many seniors experience that aren’t related to Alzheimer’s. Diabetic retinopathy is not related to Alzheimer’s but could go with the disease.
- Problems speaking or writing is a symptom when the person has difficulty following a conversation, or they repeat themselves. Occasional trouble finding the right word is age-related.
- Misplacing belongings and losing the ability to retrace steps to find them can be a symptom, but it’s one I’ve suffered since I can remember. I have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and try to put items like glasses, keys and cellphone in the same place. It’s not unusual for them to wind up on top of the refrigerator or another drawer when distractions arise. The distraction usually blocks retracing.
- At some point, most Alzheimer’s sufferers experience serious changes in judgment when dealing with money. This goes beyond making the occasional bad decision. It’s usually a point where there is family intervention which may cause conflict with the patient.
- As we age it’s normal to feel weary of work, family and social duties. I don’t know about you, but in my early 70s I love having a weekend where nothing is planned except a beer in my hand when I’m tending my Weber grill. Serious withdrawal from work or social engagements could be a red flag. Often, people with Alzheimer become withdrawn because of the mental challenges they experience. They fear interacting with others.
- The last item the Alzheimer’s Association lists is changes in moods and personality. Confusion, suspicion, depression and anxiety could become a part of a daily personality. Most diabetics experience mood changes. I get grouchy when my blood sugar is low and hyper when it’s high.
If you, a friend or family member has any one of these symptoms, I urge you to seek a doctor’s help. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “It’s the only cause of death in the top ten in America that cannot be prevented or cured.” Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
I’ve spent some time as a volunteer in a nursing home and most of the Alzheimer patients were women. In fact the Alzheimer’s Association notes that two-thirds of the Alzheimer’s patients in the USA are women.
Is Alzheimer’s hereditary? According to the Mayo Clinic there are genes that are passed on that indicate the disease. The risk of type 2 diabetes is also genetic but the risk also includes obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It might be wise to check the medical history on both sides of your family. In my family, none of the men we know of had Alzheimer’s but several women did.
On my Mom’s side of the family, her mother and two of her sisters who were identical twins had the disease. My Louisiana grandma, also known as “Mamoo,” also had Parkinson’s disease. My identical twin aunts were her caretakers. They were single and both were prominent career women long before that was an acceptable term. After retiring, my “aunties” got advanced degrees in sociology and psychology and entered second careers in their seventies.
I visited every year. They could still ride bikes, shoot some hoops, and dispense their wisdom. They managed the family home, raised cattle, supervised timber cutting. During my visits, I got on a tractor and mowed pastures and helped milk the cows just as I’d done as a boy. We groomed the local cemetery. In the evening we sipped bourbon and reminisced about past memories. There was always a lot of laughter and good advice from “Ruth and Bob.”
I lived 1500 miles away and noted when I called they seemed vague about who was on the phone. One twin had to remind the other who was on the phone and repeat parts of my conversation. Eventually they wound up in a nursing home with the stronger twin, Roberta, taking care of the weaker twin, Ruth. Within a few years they both died surrounded by….but not recognizing the friends and family that loved them.
My favorite cousin was their caretaker and executor of their complex estate. She was a bright and beautiful redhead and finalist as Miss Louisiana many years ago. She attended college when my siblings and I were kids, but always had time to take us on many adventures. After she finished her executor duties with all its complexities doctors diagnosed Alzheimer’s. Her mental spiral was fast and unexpected to her husband and seven children.
Longevity and mental alertness were characteristics on my Dad’s side of the family. My grandmother was in her nineties when she died, physically infirm from an automobile accident. She was a cultured and educated woman who reveled in her modest country estate. I remember her setting herself slowly down in her favorite easy chair and commenting, “It’s hell having a young mind in an old body.”
One of my Dad’s uncles lived to be 102 years old. He was still dragging a fishing skiff across the rocks of the Maine coast of the Atlantic Ocean when he was in his nineties. His sister, a retired schoolteacher, lived as long. There was no sign of diabetes or Alzheimer’s on that side of the family.
Both of my grandfathers died of heart related diseases. Were the diseases brought on by diabetes? We don’t know.
Now, Alzheimer’s is not curable though there are medications that can ease the symptoms. There are medications for memory loss and behavior as well as alternative treatments. All the medications have side effects and may interdict diabetes medication.
Science Alert published a report in March of this year about a non-invasive ultrasound treatment that literally shakes off the plaque from the brain that causes memory loss and disease progression. A team at the University of Queensland in Australia developed an ultrasound technique called focused therapeutic ultrasound. So far, mice have been the only test subjects with 75 percent of the treated mice able to improve memory performance tasks. Human trials won’t get underway until 2017.
Many natural aids can help control Alzheimer’s Disease and Type 2 Diabetes. I’m not a scientist but there is a certain logic behind natural herbs and ingredients that can help control both blood sugar and Alzheimer’s.
Research in India has identified at least two herbs that can reduce the plaque that causes Alzheimer’s. Indian researches have conducted experiments on both ashwagandha and circumin found in turmeric. Both have shown promise for brain health and both can reduce blood sugar. Both are available on the Internet in places like Amazon.com. The low incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s in India led researchers to studies on turmeric, which is a staple of Indian curry. Research showed circumin erased the plaque from the brain that causes Alzheimer’s.
Ginger root, both fresh and dried have shown promise as Alzheimer’s preventive. It’s another herb that can help control Alzheimer’s and diabetes blood sugar.
I take two capsules each day that have both ginger and turmeric. Check with your doctor before taking these. If you’re a younger diabetic it might be a good preventive measure. Be careful, excessive ginger has some side effects and could be unsafe if you’re taking a blood thinner. According to experts, turmeric in moderation causes few side effects, though it could cause stomach upset in some people. Supplements are available online.
Another reason to take ginger and turmeric; it’s an anti-inflammatory and helps ease joint pain. I also take glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM for joint pain. I abandoned the ginger and turmeric for a couple of weeks the pain was outrageous. A Canadian fishing trip was miserable climbing stairs and getting in and out of a boat.
Coconut oil is another ingredient that shows promise for both Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Researchers say ketones found in coconut oil slows Alzheimer’s disease and could prevent it. Notably, Dr. Mary Newport tried coconut oil on her husband who suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s. She referred to Alzheimer’s as “diabetes of the brain.” He failed his Alzheimer’s test that required he draw a clock. His “clock” wandered all over the page and looked like something a nursery school child would draw. He took the test two weeks after using coconut oil and drew a real clock. A week later, he drew a better clock. Within a few months he regained his personality and appeared almost normal.
We use coconut oil in cooking, smoothies and coffee. I drink decaf coffee in the morning with a tablespoon of organic extra virgin coconut oil. It improves the coffee taste and gives me a better burst of energy than coffee with caffeine. Just make sure the coconut oil is not hydrogenated.
Bitter melon also helps prevent Alzheimer’s. As noted in the previous posts I drink about four ounces of this every day to control my blood sugar.
Of course none of these solutions can work unless you preserve healthy blood sugar levels. We know that drill; diet, low carbs and exercise. However, if you try these natural remedies to help control both Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes you could have a more enjoyable lifestyle. Don’t forget to consult your doctor before you try them!