RESIST DEMENTIA BY ADDRESSING IMPAIRED GLUCOSE TOLERANCE
Individuals with impaired glucose tolerance—a pre-diabetic state of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) that is associated with insulin resistance—are much more likely to develop cognitive difficulties than a comparable group of individuals with normal blood sugar levels. In a review of 31 studies focused on cognitive performance under various dietary conditions, otherwise healthy individuals with impaired glucose tolerance scored worse on 12 of 27 cognitive tests, including tests of visual spatial learning, psychomotor functioning, word recognition, and visual verbal learning. Fortunately, there are effective ways to prevent and/or counteract the troubling cognitive decline among individuals with impaired glucose tolerance. According to the lead author of the study, which was presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting, regular exercise (at least 30 minutes, five days a week) can help improve glucose regulation, as can switching to a diet high in dietary fiber—more than 30 grams per day—and choosing foods with limited glycemic impact. Both dietary options help reduce the likelihood of surges in blood sugar and might help people with im-paired glucose tolerance maintain more normal blood sugar levels and lower their risk for diabetes.
Examples of high-fiber foods include: Bran, fortified cereals, popcorn, cauliflower and broccoli, savoy cabbage, raspberries, leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, celery, winter squashes, beans, mush-rooms, artichokes, and oranges.
Examples of low-glycemic foods include: Stone-ground whole wheat, rolled oatmeal, pasta, converted rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, legumes, most fruits and non-starchy vegetables .
STRESS IN MID-LIFE INCREASES DEMENTIA RISK
New research underscores the importance of finding ways to relax and lower your stress levels to reduce your risk for dementia. Scientists analyzed about 37 years’ worth of data on more than 800 Swedish women starting in middle age and found that the wear and tear associated with normal psychological stressors experienced in middle and late-middle age were associated with a significant increase in the likelihood that a participant would develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or another dementia in older age. Common stressors included divorce or widowhood, death of a child, poor social support, job strain, mental illness in a family member, and more. During the period covered by the study, 19 percent of the participants were diagnosed with dementia—usually AD—at the average age of 78. For each life stressor experienced by a partici-pant, the risk for dementia rose by 17 percent, according to a report in the Sept. 30, 2013 online issue of BMJ Open. The study does not prove conclusively that stress causes dementia. However, learning good stress-reduction techniques such as the one described below may help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and other factors that have been linked with damage to the brain’s memory regions and the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of AD.
This mini-relaxation exercise designed by experts at MGH’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine should help you lower your stress levels in short order:
- Inhale deeply as you begin to silently count backwards very slowly starting with the number “10.”
- Exhale and inhale again on the count of “nine,” and so on down to “zero.”
- Take one deep breath and exhale completely with each number.
- Slow down your counting if you start feeling light-headed or dizzy. If you’re still tense at zero, repeat the exercise.