Some of the effects of diabetes are more apparent than others, and the effects of the disease on the brain fall into the category of those that may not be detected immediately – especially if they relate to high blood sugars.

The brain is a highly sensitive organ. It is finely-tuned to react to a myriad of stimuli, including the amount of sugar (glucose) it may receive as fuel.

White matter is the part of the brain where the nerves communicate with each other. In this section of the brain, signals are sent/received and acted upon. Should the nerves become damaged, the signals become faulty and the thinking impaired. This is the simplified way of explaining vascular dementia (also known as vascular cognitive impairment).

Vascular cognitive impairment is a possibility in both type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but there are some variants in the risk – according to research undertaken at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

One of their findings was that the longer a person has diabetes, the greater the chance they will have of developing dementia. However, it is much less likely in people with type 1 who keep their diabetes well-controlled.

People with type 2 diabetes may also be susceptible to other problems that can cause blood-vessel damage, as they tend to be less metabolically fit overall. They generally display low HDL [“good”] cholesterol along with high blood pressure and high triglycerides, meaning they are more likely to be obese.

When diabetes combines with these other problems, it creates the conditions that lead to inflammation, and the possibility of damaged blood vessels. For these reasons, good diabetes control is especially vital.

Tackle Diabetes Head-On

The research team involved urge people to tackle their diabetes head-on. Joel Zonszein, MD, who led the clinical research, says “Sometimes people want to try a lot of different things before they go to insulin or other injectable diabetes drugs. The last thing they want is to take shots. However, it’s important to bring down your blood glucose early in diabetes and not chase it for 5 years.”