Diabetes is a whole lot more than just blood sugar problems, including extreme fatigue and unhealthy cravings— as someone who has a family history filled with diabetes, I’ve repeatedly seen the potentially-fatal disease affect a much more encompassing spectrum of health factors. Whether it’s seeing my dad go from active and athletic just a few years ago, to maybe being able to play one or two games before getting injured, or noticing how my grandparents have to watch everything they eat (they can’t even have a bowl of ice cream without worrying), I’ve seen the far-reaching, fine-print ways that diabetes can adversely affect people that most of us probably aren’t aware of.
But another seldom-seen symptom of diabetes raises the level of worry even higher: diabetes can age your brain an additional five years, claims research published in Annals of Internal Medicine. In fact, the disease can even put you at greater risk for a quickened cognitive decline later in life. As if diabetes patients didn’t have enough symptoms to worry about.
As demoralizing as this news may be for diabetes patients today, starts Elizabeth Selvin, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the answer is really as simple as it’s always been: eating right and remaining active now can help keep you healthy– both physically and now mentally– when you’re older.
But where is the link between declining mental health and diabetes? It could be inflammation, offers Alexa Fleckstein, MD, author of The Diabetes Cure, who admits that “one of the most interesting discoveries of the last 20 years is that chronic inflammation” is the root cause of type 2 diabetes. She’s seen that diabetes patients who employ “an anti-inflammatory lifestyle” every day have an easier time losing weight, improving their blood sugar levels, and even curing the disease entirely.
Furthermore, she goes on, some foods– like artificial coloring, pesticides, and plastic chemicals– can lead to inflammatory issues faster than you can yell “high blood sugar!”
But there are some simple adjustments you can make that can reverse inflammation, most notably changing what you eat. “Eating anti-inflammatory foods will eliminate the inflammation in your body,” she notes.
With a switch to healthier, more wholesome foods, you can start looking forward to the future– and looking back to diabetes.
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