Type 2 diabetes is a serious—and sadly common—disease. The American Diabetes Association estimates that just under 10% of Americans (29.1 million) had diabetes in 2012, and the number keeps rising by 1.4 million every year. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. In 2010, diabetes was either the direct cause of or an underlying risk factor in around 300,000 deaths.
But the health problems begin long before you ever receive your diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance, even in its early stages, can lead to a wide range of problems: organ, circulatory, hormonal, and even neurological.
According to a study out of Tel Aviv University, insulin resistance can speed up cognitive decline. Those with insulin resistance—both non-diabetics and diabetics alike—may run the risk of accelerated degradation of memory and executive brain function. The study took place over two decades, following 500 people with existing cardiovascular disease. The patients with the highest blood glucose and fasting insulin levels (markers of insulin resistance) saw a faster decline in their cognitive performance. Not only that, but their cognitive performance in the battery of tests was poorer than the rest of their counterparts.
The tests examined the visual-spatial processing, attention, executive function, and memory of the patients. Fifteen years passed between the first and second test, followed by a third test at the 20-year mark. Those with insulin resistance (as indicated by high fasting insulin and blood glucose levels) had the poorest cognitive performance and showed the greatest amount of cognitive decline.
Diabetes and insulin resistance will do more than taking a toll on your body. In addition to all the physiological effects of insulin resistance—more fatigue, frequent urination, unexplained weight gain or loss—there are significant neurological effects. Your memory will suffer, along with your attention span, your concentration, recall, visual-spatial processing, and executive function. These metabolic problems affect your mind as much as your body.
That’s why it’s so important to get your glucose and insulin levels under control. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes can all play a significant role in improving your health. By taking care to reduce blood glucose and insulin levels, you can protect your brain from insulin-resistance/diabetes-induced decline.
1. Miri Lutski, Galit Weinstein, Uri Goldbourt, David Tanne. “Insulin Resistance and Future Cognitive Performance and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Patients with Cardiovascular Disease.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017.