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How diabetes affects your brain

If diabetes is not well managed, one of the things it can affect is the brain.

Spikes and dips in blood sugar levels have been linked with depression, dementia, a shorter attention span and slower reaction times.

A 2015 study published in the journal Neurology found that in just 2 years, people with type 2 diabetes showed a significant decline in cognitive ability compared with people who didn't have the condition.

A separate 2015 study in the same journal suggested that diabetes may be linked to changes in the brain that are also found in people who have Alzheimer's disease. Researchers estimated that people with type 2 diabetes have double the risk of developing dementia.

More research needs to be done for experts to work out the exact short-term and long-term effects of diabetes on the brain.

How high blood sugar affects children

A 2014 study published by the American Diabetes Association found that very high blood sugar ( hyperglycaemia) can slow the growth of the brain as it develops. The same is true when a child's levels swing up and down a lot.

Brain scans show differences between a child with diabetes and one without. However, researchers found no major differences in their IQs, mood, behaviour and learning and memory skills. It's still unknown if the disease can affect things like their muscle movements and how fast they process information.

What can you do?

The longer your levels stay really high or low, or swing to extremes, it seems the more likely your brain will be affected.

The best defence against diabetes damaging the brain, or any other part of the body, is to control your blood sugar, eat a healthy diet, and follow your diabetes care team's recommendations.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 04, 2015

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