What is type 3 diabetes?
Type 3 diabetes is a title that has been proposed for
Alzheimer's disease which results from resistance to insulin in the
brain. It is not yet a medical term or a recognised condition, but
is a term now used in research looking into the causes of
What is insulin?
Insulin acts like a key. It's job is to open the doors that
allow glucose to enter the body's cells from the bloodstream.
Muscle cells can use glucose and fats to fuel movement; however
brain cells rely fully on glucose to fuel it's activities. These
activities include concentration, alertness, attention,
decision-making, organisation, memory, awareness, personality,
speaking, motor skills, self-monitoring and inhibition of
behaviour. A staggering 20% or more of the body's glucose supply is
used to fuel these brain activities.
'Diabetes of the brain'
In type 2 and type 3 diabetes the body becomes less sensitive to
insulin; it is like the locks and keys for the doors to the cells
are rusty and don't fit in as easily anymore. The result is that
less glucose is able to enter into the cells. In type 2 diabetes,
this leads to high blood glucose levels in the bloodstream and
feelings of weakness and fatigue.
In type 3 diabetes the brain cells, called neurons, become
starved of glucose, which in turn can lead to a progressive
reduction in memory, reasoning, judgement and insight that
characterises Alzheimer's disease.
Am I at risk?
People that have insulin resistance, in particular those with
type 2 diabetes, have a 50% to 65% increased risk of suffering from
Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, research has found deposits of
amyloid beta protein in the pancreas of people with type 2
diabetes; a similar protein has been found to deposit in the brain
tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease.
While Alzheimer's disease does also develop without having high
blood glucose levels, having type 2 diabetes appears to accelerate
the progression of Alzheimer's.
How can exercise help?
According to the Alzheimer's Research & Prevention
Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of
developing Alzheimer's disease by up to 50%. What's more, exercise
can also slow further deterioration in those who have already
started to develop cognitive problems. Exercise protects against
Alzheimer's and other types of dementia by stimulating the brain's
ability to maintain old connections as well as make new ones.
Exercise makes every cell in the body more sensitive to insulin
- it is like WD40 for the rusty locks and keys in the doors to the
cells. Exercise lubricates these locks, allowing insulin (the key)
to bind to a receptor (the lock) so the door can open and glucose
can enter the cell.
The effect of exercise on insulin sensitivity peaks at 24 hours
after exercising and lasts for up to 72 hours. For this reason, it
is suggested not to let more than 48-72 hours pass between exercise
sessions for maximum benefit.
Which type of exercise is
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each
week. The ideal exercise plan involves a combination of cardio
exercise and strength training. Good activities for beginners
include walking, swimming, and resistance band or body weight
Build muscle to pump up your brain, and moderate levels of
weight is all it takes. Strength training not only increase muscle
mass, it helps you maintain your brain health. For those over 65,
adding two to three strength sessions to your weekly routine may
cut your risk of Alzheimer's in half.
Include balance and coordination exercises. Head injuries from
falls are an increasing risk as you age, which in turn increase
your risk for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Balance and
coordination exercises can help you stay agile and avoid trips or
falls. Try yoga, Tai Chi, or exercises that involve balance like
standing on one leg, or on an uneven surface like a cushion.
What else can I do?
Regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet, social
engagement, mental stimulation such as puzzles and memory games,
quality sleep, and stress management are the six pillars of
Dementia Action Week / 16-22 September
Formerly Dementia Awareness Month, this year Dementia Australia
is bringing you Dementia Action Week from the 16 to 22 September to
include World Alzheimer's Day on the 21 September.
The theme for Dementia Action Week is 'Dementia doesn't
discriminate. Do you?'
You can create or attend events to play a part in the
conversation about discrimination and dementia during Dementia
Action Week. Perhaps you'd like to host a morning tea, a gathering
of family and friends, a display in your community, or a creative
event? For more information visit