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Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Simple Way to Fight Alzheimer’s in Diabetes


The very mention of the word Alzheimer’s spreads terror, regardless of whether one has diabetes. Recent research linking diabetes with the dreaded loss of mental faculties spurs me to write today’s post in favor of exercising the brain everyday to keep it in top shape.

Nature endows us with brains of such enormous capacities that even a genius can use no more than a small fraction of the potential of this wonderful organ.

It is true that blood with too much fat and glucose does no good for the brain, and may even starve some portions of it served by narrow and small blood vessels, to the point of death. It is easier to perceive tingling in the toes than insidious loss of memory and cognition, but loss of mind is a complication of diabetes which is neither fully known nor adequately appreciated.

Conscious attempts to remember lines of poetry or even telephone numbers, a habit of preferring mental math to a digital calculator when doing mundane things such as shopping, thinking logically about public issues, and planning activities and budgeting expenses, are examples of easy but meaningful daily exercises for the brain, which will help keep it in good shape, even if one has diabetes. That is not to say we can ignore abnormal blood sugar levels, but mental calisthenics are just as important as prescriptions for diabetes management from our physicians.

Primary medical care often ignores psychiatry, so the dangers of gradual losses of mental faculties in routine diabetes management, are real and present in many cases. Regular tests of concrete and emotional intelligence levels help to keep tabs on mental health, though they are not substitutes for a professional psychiatric assessment of the Global Assessment of Functioning. Building exercises for the mind in to daily routines is the best way of ensuring that they get done, but special measures to develop intelligence are also available.

Let me know if you would like details, but do resolve to start daily mental exercises for remembering and thinking: now how is that for a late (but not too late) 2007 resolution?


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