You may not remember when the National Institute of Health revised the guidelines for diagnosing parameters for normal blood pressure, pre-hypertension and frank hypertension back in 2005. The new guidelines set normal blood pressure readings at a systolic or top number less than 120 and a diastolic or number below the formula line of less than 80. Pre-hypertension was established as systolic or top number between 120 and 139, diastolic or below-the-line number between 80 and 89. Frank hypertension was now diagnosed with a reading of 140/90. Medicine evolves and new studies help to re-shape diagnostic screenings and formularies.
Now a new study suggests that we may need to re-think blood sugar screening as well. An Australian study of nearly 250 non-diabetic men and women in their early 60’s measured blood sugar levels- once at the beginning of the study, and then four years later. Measurements of the brain were taken at the beginning of the study and again 4 years later. Brain shrinkage was noted in the hippocampus and amygdala, and it correlated to even high end “normal" blood sugar readings, based on guidelines of the World Health Organization. The researchers removed overweight and obese participants from the data pool and used the American Diabetes Association’s stricter guidelines for normal blood sugar, and still found provocative results showcasing shrinkage from high end normal blood sugar readings.
This research is considered very preliminary but the results establish concern over factors that regulate blood sugar levels including diet, stress, lack of exercise and weight. Brain shrinkage means deterioration of memory and if that can be avoided by lifestyle modification or treating blood sugar fluctuations during a more subtle phase of pre-disease, then studies like this may influence screening and treatment decisions. Researchers do feel that the association between high normal blood sugar levels and brain shrinkage warrants more study. The findings should inspire better eating and exercise habits.
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