Many people have trouble with forgetfulness and other cognitive issues in their senior years. But problems like dementia and Alzheimer's disease are not a normal part of aging. The cause of these conditions is unknown, but experts have found some factors that may increase your risk. And diabetes is one of them.

Your Brain on Diabetes

Diabetes can raise the risk for certain cognitive problems. Studies show that:

-Type 2 diabetes speeds up cognitive decline in the elderly.

-Long-term high blood sugar levels are linked with poorer memory, multitasking ability, and thought processing speed.

-Diabetes before age 65 raises the risk for vascular dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and mild cognitive impairment, a condition that may be a warning sign of dementia.

-Uncontrolled diabetes also raises the risk of mild cognitive impairment.

Experts aren't quite sure why the link between diabetes and cognitive decline exists. But they think that cognitive problems may be sparked by:

-High blood sugar levels.
-Insulin resistance.
-Damage to the heart, kidneys, nerves and other parts of the body caused by high blood sugar levels over time.

Keep Cognitive Problems at Bay

Controlling your blood sugar can help cut your risk of cognitive problems and other diabetes complications. To care for your diabetes well, follow your treatment plan as prescribed by your doctor:

-Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Lowering your body weight by just 5 to 10 percent can drastically cut your health risks. If you weigh 200 pounds, that's only 10 to 20 pounds.
-Be physically active. Work your way up to at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days each week. Choose an activity you enjoy - such as walking, bike riding, tennis, or swimming - and you'll be more likely to stick with it. Always check with your doctor before you increase your exercise level.
-Eat right. Build your diet around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Try to limit processed foods and foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar. And keep an eye on portion sizes.
-Take all your medicine as directed. If you take oral diabetes meds, insulin, or other medications take them as prescribed by your doctor.
-Keep track of your blood sugar readings. See your doctor if you follow your diabetes treatment plan but your blood sugar levels aren't under control. Your care plan may need to be adjusted.