Are you heading toward dementia? This test may hold the answer

September 25, 2007
Volume 04    |   Issue 39

No one wants to lose their memory. But if you have this very common ailment, it may happen to you. Fortunately, there?s an easy way to find out. And, more importantly, there are clear ways to fix the problem and prevent dementia.

The ailment is chronically high blood sugar. We all have times when our blood sugar jumps up. A meal with lots of refined carbs and a dessert can do it to the healthiest eaters. But chronically high blood sugar is extremely dangerous. Not only can it lead to diabetes; it can also cause you to lose your memory.

A recent four-year study of older women found that when their blood sugar was chronically high - even if they weren?t diabetic - they had an increased risk for impaired memory. This could be due to either direct or indirect brain damage caused by high blood sugar. Or it could mean that there?s an association between the enzyme that breaks down insulin and the development of Alzheimer?s disease. There are a number of possibilities, all of which researchers are studying rigorously.

Your doctor can check your blood sugar level. But unfortunately, most doctors use the wrong test. They typically order a fasting glucose test.

This test only tells you what your blood sugar level is at that moment in time. But if you haven?t indulged in a lot of carbs recently, your number will probably be normal.

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There?s another test that can determine your long-term blood sugar levels far more accurately. It measures blood sugar levels over the past two to four months - rather than a snapshot in time. So a few days of high carb meals won?t set it off.

The test, called Hemoglobin A1c or HbA1c, measures the amount of sugar attached to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. So if you want to see if you?re headed for memory problems, diabetes, or other health problems, ask your doctor to order a fasting HbA1c blood test.

If your HbA1c is 7% or less, it indicates you have good long-term blood sugar control. If it?s higher, it means that you could be four times more likely to develop serious memory problems than women whose test results are under 7%.

Meanwhile, there may be a simple solution to future memory problems: get your blood sugar under control. Limit your sugar and alcohol intake, eat whole grains and high fiber fruits. And save the refined foods for an occasional treat.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Yaffe, K, MD, et al, Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, Vol 10, No 4, 2007.

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