A A+ A+

Struggling with Your Memory? Could It Be the First Sign of Alzheimer’s?

We’re beginning to hear more and more about rising rates of Alzheimer’s.

It’s a frightening reality, but in many ways, we’re making significant progress. Each additional piece that’s unlocked, brings us closer and closer to a solution. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, if we’re able to identify the potential cause, we may be able to intervene.

Based on a recent study, glucose deprivation has been linked to memory impairment. If you have been wondering whether or not your memory blips are a normal part of aging, or something more serious — it’s important to put your mind to rest.

Here is what some of the latest research has uncovered.

A Decline In Glucose Levels May Lead to Memory Loss

Glucose and the brain

Regardless of your age, your body relies on glucose in order to fuel cells. This is particularly the case within your brain, especially within your hippocampus. This region of the brain helps you both process and store memories — which has been a key area of interest for researchers.

Recently, a study out of Temple University in Philadelphia, found that glucose deprivation does, in fact, trigger cognitive decline. More specifically, this decline in glucose levels may be one of the first critical signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Appearing in the early stages, when neurons are starved of glucose, they die.

This topic has been up for debate for quite some time, with scientists divided on whether or not low glucose was a cause — or a dysfunction based on neurological changes. Based on these new findings, the link between diabetes and dementia appears to have strengthened.

Recommended reading: Is There a Link Between Dementia and Diabetes

It’s well understood that insulin resistance, a symptom of type 2 diabetes, is a significant risk factor for dementia. So, how does this effect within the brain influence memory?

Based on advancing technology, including the use of PET scans, researchers have been able to detect changes in the brain associated with cognitive decline. The hippocampus continues to be a key area of concern. This is especially the case while focusing on declining glucose levels. 

This was the first study of its kind to detect a relationship between glucose deprivation, memory impairment, and the accumulation of tau in the brain. This protein is what begins to form ‘tangles’ — furthering neuronal death.

Tau tangles

A greater concentration of tau tangles, was associated with more severe dementia symptoms. This was perhaps the most exciting discovery, however:

  • Based on this research, a new protein was discovered, known as p38.

  • Based on glucose deprivation, p38 is activated, which could potentially be some sort of defence mechanism.

  • Long-term, however, this protein increases the presence of tau — making cognitive impairment worse. Meaning, p38 could be directly involved in the development of Alzheimer’s.

Of course, the next step would be ‘switching off’ p38 to see how it affects memory impairment — despite the presence of glucose deprivation. In this recent study, this is exactly what researchers found and reported:

  • While studying mice bred to showcase tau pathology and memory impairments, the impact of glucose deprivation was key.

  • Around the age of four months (equivalent to 26 to 32 in human years), mice were given a compound that stops glucose from entering cells. 

  • In maze tests, those who were glucose-deprived, did worse than the control group. They also showcased abnormal synaptic function, indicating that neural pathways were being broken down.

  • As mentioned, memory impairment was directly linked to an increased in p38 — which lead to higher levels of tau and greater cell death.

You may read the full study here.

Is YOUR Memory Loss Normal?

Now, back to the question on your mind — is the level of memory loss and confusion a sign of Alzheimer’s? If you have been a bit more forgetful than normal, could you be displaying one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s?

For example, you may have noticed lately that…

  • You’re running into familiar individuals, but can’t quite remember their name.

  • You’re walking into a room, forgetting what you came for.

  • You have misplaced your keys or reading glasses more often lately.

For many, these ‘blips’ become more common with age. With fewer connections in older age, the average individual’s brain power isn’t what it used to be. For those that have been experiencing memory issues recently, the first thought that comes to mind is often the worse — am I developing Alzheimer’s?

With nearly 5.5 million Americans currently living with this disease, any troubling symptom can be unsettling, but before you panic, ask yourself…

  • How often are these memory blips occurring?

  • Have you noticed that over the past few years, symptoms have gradually gotten worse?

  • What type of pattern have I noticed? Are memory issues occurring once a week? Twice a month? Or more?

Before you worry yourself into an unnecessary state of worry, know that lapses in memory can occur for a wide range of reasons. Some common contributing factors include, sleep deprivation, certain medications, stress, depression, nutritional deficiencies, alcohol abuse, etc.

If you have noticed that issues with your memory are interfering with your everyday life, then please seek a professional opinion. In many cases, such as the conditions stated above, your symptoms can be treated. Put your mind to rest.

If you suspect that Alzheimer’s is to blame, although frightening, the BEST thing you can do is seek early intervention.

In fact, as recently stated in The Orange County Register, Dr. William Shankle, director of the Memory and Cognitive Disorders program at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute, “with early treatment — as many as 45 percent of patients have what’s known as a potentially curable condition.” Making key lifestyle changes can significantly reduce one’s risk, and in many cases, delay symptoms for up to 15 to 20 years.

Elder fit

As stated in this article, there are three golden rules:

  • First, eat healthy! If you’re able to maintain balanced glucose levels and keep your cholesterol levels low, you can significantly impact your physical and neurological health.

  • Secondly, make sure you stay active. If your fitness levels are low, begin by walking 30 minutes each day. Then, challenge yourself. Join a racquetball league with a friend, or go swimming three times a week.

  • Lastly, keep your mind active. Watching 3-4 hours of television a day isn’t rewarding for your mind. Encourage lifelong learning, all while reducing stress and remaining socially active.

Keep track of all recent ‘symptoms’ and be sure to check out the science behind BrainTest — an electronic version of the SAGE test. If you’re concerned, do not hesitate. Make an appointment with your doctor today, so that you can take every necessary step to protect yourself for years to come.

Subscribe & keep up to date on Alzheimer's, Dementia & more!