Type 2 Diabetes – Low Blood Sugar in Older People


The human brain is rich in nerve cells and is the most energy-demanding organ in our body. Our brain uses half of our body’s sugar energy. Thinking, memory, and learning are linked closely to your sugar levels and how efficiently your brain uses this source. When blood sugar levels go extremely low, as in poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes, brain damage can result. Older adults are especially vulnerable.

Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago in the United States reported their findings in June of 2018 in the medical journal Diabetologia. A total of 3.1 percent of 2001 participants, with an average age of 76, had a history of severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). The participants who had suffered several episodes of hypoglycemia had more than twice (2.34%) the risk of developing dementia as those with better sugar control. MRI’s taken of the brain showed those people who had a history of hypoglycemia also averaged a lower than usual brain size.

Researchers continued to follow 1263 of the participants and found…

  • low blood sugar levels were linked with new cases of dementia and
  • the participants who had incidents of severe hypoglycemia were more than twice (2.54%) more likely to develop new cases of dementia.

The investigators concluded there is a definite link between extremely low blood sugar and dementia. They suggest adults who are at high risk for developing dementia discuss which Type 2 diabetes medications are safest for preventing hypoglycemia…

  • normal blood sugar levels range from 70 to 99 mg/dL (3.9 to 5.5 mmol/L) for healthy individuals on awakening.
  • two hours after meals blood sugar levels should not be above 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) in non-diabetic individuals.

Some people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, are used to having blood sugar levels that would be considered abnormal for healthy people, so they need to discuss their lab work with their doctor.

Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar level are…

  • shakiness,
  • nervousness or anxiety,
  • sweating, chills, clammy skin,
  • feeling irritable,
  • feeling confused,
  • having a fast heartbeat,
  • experiencing lightheadedness or feeling dizzy,
  • hunger or nausea,
  • sleepiness,
  • blurred vision,
  • tingling or numbness in your lips or tongue,
  • a headache,
  • weakness or tiredness,
  • anger, stubbornness, or sadness,
  • lack of coordination,
  • nightmares or crying out during sleep,
  • seizures,
  • unconsciousness.

When hypoglycemia strikes, it is essential to treat it quickly. Always carry food for emergencies. A tube of cake icing, a cup of milk with a tablespoon of sugar, or fruit juice will put sugar back into the blood quickly. Then call your doctor’s office.