News briefs: Low blood sugar and dementia: Avoiding the downward spiral

Published: September, 2013

Here's more evidence linking dangerously low blood sugar to the risk of developing problems with memory and thinking: a study in JAMA Internal Medicine published online June 10, 2013, found that older adults with diabetes who experience at least one severe bout of low blood sugar (also called hypoglycemia) may have double the risk for developing dementia. The study also found that hypoglycemia occurs more often in people with dementia. Why? Low blood sugar can cause seizures and brain injury. It may occur more often in older diabetics if they take their diabetes medication to lower blood sugar but skip a meal or if their kidney function causes the diabetes medication to lower blood sugar for too long. The study suggests that older diabetics are at risk for entering a downward spiral where low blood sugar fuels dementia, and dementia fuels more hypoglycemia. Researchers advise physicians to be less aggressive in lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics with impaired cognitive function. The study is also a reminder about the importance of preventing diabetes. Research has shown that regular exercise and weight loss have potent effects in preventing or delaying diabetes.

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