Elevated Blood Sugar Levels May Increase Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

by Dorian Martin Patient Advocate

So you don't have diabetes. Should you still be worried about having an elevated risk of Alzheimer's disease? A new study out of the University of Arizona suggests that you could still have reason for concern.

The study looked at whether elevated blood sugar levels in people who do not have diabetes might indicate higher risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. The link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease already has been studied.

The researchers used a specific type of positron electron tomography (PET) imaging technique to produce three-dimension images of metabolic activity in the brain. As part of the study, researchers used the PET imaging to look at fasting serum glucose (blood sugar) levels that study participants experienced after several hours of not eating.

The researchers analyzed data on 124 adults who were cognitively normal and did not have diabetes. Each of these participants had a family history of Alzheimer's disease. They ranged in age from 47-58 and were among participants in a larger study that was delving into a number of Alzheimer's risk factors, including genetic risk.

The researchers found that the link between high blood sugar and reduced brain metabolism showed up, no matter whether individuals had the established genetic risk factor of the development of Alzheimer's disease, Apolipoprotein E4 gene variant.

"When compared to those without the disease, Alzheimer's disease patients demonstrate a pattern of reduced brain metabolism in particular brain regions," explained Christine Burns, lead author on the study and a University of Arizona pre-doctoral student in psychology. "What we show is an association between elevated fasting serum glucose levels and a similar pattern of reduced metabolism in these same AD-related brain regions in cognitively healthy adults."

Controlling glucose levels

The American Diabetes Association notes that there are several things that can cause your blood glucose to rise. These include:

  • A meal or snack that involves more food - or more carbohydrates - than usual.

  • Inactivity.

  • Side effects of medication.

  • Infection or other illness.

  • Changes in hormone levels.

  • Stress.

Blood glucose also can decline due to the following issues:

  • A meal or snack that involves less food - or fewer carbohydrates - than usual.

  • Extra activity.

  • Side effects of other medications.

  • Missing a meal or snack.

  • Drinking alcoholic beverages, especially on an empty stomach.

Tips for a Healthy Blood Sugar Level

Dr. Christiane Northrup, who practiced obstetrics and gynecology for more than 25 years and has authored numerous books about women's health, offers some suggestions to help promote healthy blood sugar levels. These tips are:

  • Eat at least 10 grams protein at breakfast every morning. Doing this sets you up for "normal" blood sugar for the remainder of the day. Protein options can include a low-glycemic shake with protein, a high-protein nutrition bar, eggs or other protein source.

  • Blood sugar response depends on the individual. Some "healthy foods" can cause a spike in blood sugar in some individuals and not in others.

  • Eliminate wheat and other grains for a month or so.

  • Check stress levels since emotional stress can translate into high blood sugar and weight gain. "Since stress releases cortisol, and cortisol spikes blood sugar, you will find that undue emotional stress will spike your blood sugar," Dr. Northrup stated.

  • Consider taking supplements that can help control blood sugar. Dr. Northrup recommends green coffee extract and gymnema sylvestre.

  • Consider using stevia, an herb that is very sweet.

  • Exercise. Dr. Northrup recommends getting 10 minutes of exercise to help control excess cortisol that is produced when your body is stressed. If you work in an office environment, try to walk up and down stairs or around the halls.

  • Don't diet. Dr. Northrup states that if you eat sugar, make sure you eat protein and lots of salad, green vegetables, beans and other low glycemic foods in order to keep blood sugar even.

Primary Source for This Sharepost:

American Diabetes Association. (ND). High blood glucose.

Northrup, C. (2012). Puzzle solved: Easy tips for healthy blood sugar.

University of Arizona. (2013). UA research suggests link between elevated blood sugar, Alzheimer's risk.

Dorian Martin
Meet Our Writer
Dorian Martin

Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.