Recent studies have shown that there is a strong connection between Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. So much so that the term Type 3 diabetes is used to connect both Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Type 3 diabetes is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and neurological functioning. When neurons in the brain change and no longer respond to insulin, which is essential for basic tasks including memory and learning, the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s results.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia that affects memory, cognitive functioning, and behavior. A terminal illness, the disease leaves a wake of sadness, confusion, and isolation as it worsens over time. In its beginning stages, memory loss is limited to a few words here and there during a conversation. As time passes and the disease progresses, the ability to make decisions and function within a known and familiar environment becomes impossible. Watching a loved one suffer through what were once easy tasks, like remembering a name or a birthday, is both painful and confusing.
For individuals with Alzheimer’s, the symptoms lead to embarrassing situations and unpredictable behavior as they struggle to navigate their environment. Even trusted loved ones can be treated as thieves or someone intending to do harm when the brain has no recollection of who they are. Fear, isolation, embarrassment, and humiliation are common feelings associated with those with the disease.
The term Type 3 diabetes was originated by Dr. Suzanne de la Monte, associate professor of pathology and medicine and a neuropathologist at Brown Medical School. In examining the brain tissue of post-mortem Alzheimer’s patients, she discovered that the brain showed signs of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, with a decrease in insulin production and a resistance to insulin.
In healthy brains, insulin binds to a receptor at the junction (synapse) between two nerve cells, resulting in memory formation. In an unhealthy brain, this communication is changed, and insulin is no longer able to bind to the receptor. It’s like trying to put together two puzzle pieces that don’t go together. When insulin cannot bind to the receptor, the necessary communication for memory formation does not exist, and the synapse is said to be insulin resistant. This resistance deprives the brain of glucose, which it needs for basic functioning.
This connection between Alzheimer’s and Type 2 diabetes brings new ideas for prevention and treatment for what was once believed “old-timer’s disease.” Alzheimer’s is not a disease of old age, nor is it genetic. People with Type 2 diabetes are 65 percent more likely to develop the disease than individuals with normal, blood-sugar ranges. Maintaining a healthy diet and keeping both your brain and body active are ways to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes, and now they are also being suggested as possible ways to avoid developing Alzheimer’s as well.
Although there is no true cure for Type 3 diabetes, preventive measures can be taken to manage the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It’s worth doing all you can to manage and minimize this frightening condition.
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