It has been known for many years that Type 2 Diabetes has an adverse effect on our brains and now, new studies are showing that Type 2 Diabetes is also linked to the loss of brain matter. And the brain’s gray matter, where the organ’s neurons are located, appears to be where the greatest loss occurs. Affecting millions of people, it is not always easy to know what causes Type 2 diabetes and one little known connection may lie in experiencing migraine headaches, which can signal Type 2 diabetes. Researchers studied 614 patients who had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes for an average of 10 years. Using MRI technology, they found that those with long-term diabetes suffered the greatest loss of brain tissue, suggesting brain atrophy, and in turn, that Type 2 Diabetes has a direct effect on the brain. In fact, for every 10 years that a person had diabetes, the brain appeared approximately two years older than the brain of someone without diabetes. In the past, it was widely believed that effects of diabetes on the brain were mainly vascular in nature, or related to blood vessel damage that increased the risk of stroke. The new study shows that the brain may in fact be damaged in two ways: damage to blood vessels as well as brain cell degeneration.
In the United States today 25.8 million people suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Type 2 Diabetes causes blood glucose (or sugar) levels to rise higher than normal and the body has to work harder to produce insulin. However, over time, the body cannot keep us and make enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range. This can lead to damage to the kidneys, eyes, nerves, heart, and we now know, the brain. In addition to symptoms like frequent urination, unexplained weight loss and increased hunger and thirst, headaches can be an indicator of diabetes. While headaches alone are not harmful, they can signal that your blood sugar is out of range and if you suffer frequent headaches, diabetes may be to blame.
Some people believe that the connection between the loss of brain matter and Type 2 Diabetes has more to do with proper health care than simply the presence of diabetes, and that proper glucose control is the key to maintaining cognitive health as well as overall health. While each patient’s needs are unique, learning the risks and symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, ensuring proper testing and placing an emphasis on diet and exercise, oral health and hygiene, maintaining good blood pressure and cholesterol levels are all extremely important. Patients with Type 2 Diabetes should work with their doctors to ensure that they are managing their health in the best possible way.
For more information on Type 2 Diabetes, including symptoms and self-care, please click here to visit the American Diabetes Association webpage.