David Holtzman, chairman of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis moderated a panel recently in Chicago during a Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago that featured new research exploring the links between Alzheimer’s and Diabetes.

“The risk for dementia is elevated about twofold in people who have diabetes or metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors that often precedes diabetes),” Holtzman says. “But what’s not been clear is, what’s the connection?”

According to Liqin Zhao, an associate professor at the University of Arkansas, one possibility involves the way the brain metabolizes sugar.  Zhao wanted to know why people whose bodies produce a protein called ApoE2 are less likely to get Alzheimer’s.

Previous research has shown that these people are less likely to develop the sticky plaques in the brain associated with the disease. But Zhao looked at how ApoE2 affects glycolysis, a part of the process that allows brain cells to turn sugar into energy.

So she gave ApoE2 to mice that develop a form of Alzheimer’s. And sure enough, Zhao says, the substance not only improved energy production in brain cells but made the cells healthier overall.

“All of this together increased the brain’s resilience against Alzheimer’s disease,” she says.

Another scientist described how mice fed a diet that includes lots of fat and sugar were more likely to develop both diabetes and memory impairment.

The diet caused an increase in dysfunctional brain cells in the mice, says Sami Gabbouj of the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Eastern Finland. In people, he says, that could “exacerbate” the development of Alzheimer’s.

Sleep problems are another common feature of both Alzheimer’s and diabetes, says Shannon Macauley, an assistant professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

She presented research showing that in mice, the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s do interfere with sleep. But abnormal levels of blood sugar, both high and low, also “lead to disrupted sleep,” she says

That’s concerning, she says, because poor sleep is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. So maintaining normal blood sugar levels in Alzheimer’s patients could improve their sleep and might even slow down the disease, she says.

Sleep Tips

  1. Avoid having caffeine during the day.  If you must have caffeine, do so in the earlier part of your day and don’t consume anymore.  Almost all tea are naturally caffeine-free.  It’s a great alternative if you like having hot beverages throughout the day.
  2. Create a ‘Get Ready’ Sleep Routine: Have all your housework and next-day preparations all done by an early time like 9 pm.  Spend the next 30-45 minutes getting ready for bed in a relaxing way.  You could have warm shower or bath (with a little lavender oil in your bath water), while your hair is drying, you could do a sleep meditation while sitting comfortably on the floor, brush your hair while saying a relaxing affirmation such as “I am going to get an amazing deep sleep tonight and wake up feeling so refreshed because of it.”  Refrain from looking at your phone and watching tv.  Instead, continue your sleep affirmation.
  3. If you need a little more to help you fall asleep, melatonin is proven to be effective and natural way to fall asleep.
  4. Turn off your mind from work.  It will be there in the morning.  Fretting about what you have due tomorrow will not do anything to getting it done.  If your mind is focused on your future tasks, replace it with the above affirmation.

May you have a wonderful, healing sleep tonight.