How Sugar Effects Memory as We Age

By Rebecca Jones

We all know that sticking our hand in the office candy jar can be detrimental to our waistline but can it also have a negative effect on our brain function? In a recent study at the Colombia University Medical Center it was discovered that elevated blood sugar levels can cause premature aging of the brain and a decline in cognitive function. As we age our ability to process and retain information is naturally effected but what we used to consider inevitable can actually be largely prevented with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

As children we were taught the  importance of eating a healthy breakfast because an empty stomach can lead to a drop in blood sugar. Low blood sugar can make it difficult to pay attention and learn and retain new information.  Conversely too much sugar can cause decreased blood flow to the hippocampus, the part of our brain that controls short term memory. Recent studies show that even small increases in glucose levels can have a perceptible negative effect on memory and over all brain function. As we age our ability to regulate blood sugar levels worsens so it becomes even more important that we avoid consuming large quantities of sugar.

The good news is it’s never too late to start protecting your cognitive abilities. In the past we looked to brain teasers and puzzles to keep our minds acute but now we know that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle are just as important when it comes to protecting cognitive function. Here are just a few things you can do at home to keep your mind sharp and your body healthy.

Cut down on refined carbohydrates.
Putting less sugar in your morning coffee just won’t cut it, try replacing highly processed foods like white bread and pasta with their whole grain counterparts. At snack time resist the urge to raid the vending machine for sweets and reach for fruits or vegetables instead. These foods will not only help regulate blood sugar levels but will reduce sugar craving and keep you feeling fuller longer.

There’s no getting away from the importance of exercise.
Aerobic exercise gives your body an efficient way to convert the sugar you consume into energy. This doesn’t mean you have to take up running or spend hours in the gym. Anytime you get up and get moving it counts as exercise whether it’s taking a dance class or just taking the kids to the park and the best part is the more the exercise you get the more energetic you will feel the rest of the day.

We all know that diet and exercise are the key to a person’s physical well being but now it’s becoming clear that they are just as important to our mental health as well. Though we can not prevent the decrease of memory function completley neither do we have to accept it as inevitable. With proper diet and exercise we can ensure that our minds will remain sharp and our waistlines will reflect the diligent effort.