What does diabetes have to do with my nervous system?

First, you need to know that glucose is the body’s main source of fuel or energy. Glucose is a type of sugar. There are other sugars, like fruit sugar (fructose), or milk sugar (lactose) that are converted into glucose and used for energy.

Even though our brains represent only 2% of body weight, our brains use up to 25% of the body’s available glucose or fuel. Glucose is usually metabolized and regulated at low levels in the blood through the function of a hormone called insulin, which is made in the pancreas and converts glucose from food to energy.

Insulin is a key factor in managing how the important energy from glucose is delivered to our body as well as our brain. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. If the body does not recognize insulin’s signal to process glucose for energy, the pancreas has to pump out more insulin. When the pancreas is overworked, insulin levels drop and glucose, or sugar levels rise in the blood.

When more glucose floats around, or when there isn’t enough glucose available, brain and nervous system function is affected and damage can occur, particular to areas that deal with memory and thinking such as the hippocampus and the amygdala. Further, excess sugar affects size and flexibility of your vessels (also called atherosclerosis).

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes . Although type 2 diabetes is more common in men, plenty of woman suffer from diabetes, and further, women have more complications and a greater risk of death.

When women are:

  1. physically active less than 3 times a week,
  2. diagnosed with gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy),
  3. has birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  4. of certain ethnicities such Native Americans, African-American and Latino American

they are are more at risk for developing diabetes.

And, as women age, studies have found that 50% of people over 65 have blood sugar levels that put them at risk for cognitive(thinking or memory slowing) problems. Further, researchers findings published in the medical journal Experimental Gerontology, 2012, and in the The New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 found that:  diabetics have more than double the risk of developing dementia as compared with people without diabetes.

A normal “fasting” blood sugar level is below 100 mg/dl.

It’s important to know about your sugar levels because diabetes can impact our nerves and brain.


References: www.cdc.gov| diabetes|basics|risk factors