As a nation, we eat far too much sugar and processed carbohydrates. In fact, the entire developing and developed world eats far too much of these foods. The result has been an epidemic increase in diabetes and obesity (also known as diabesity, since these two often appear together). Diabetes, or more specifically, type 2 diabetes, is largely the result of poor diet and not enough physical activity.

Fully 285 million people worldwide have diabetes, a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar. Many more people have prediabetes, a milder form of high blood sugar. Diabetes is a devastating condition that often leads to cardiovascular disease and studies are even finding a distinct link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is also known as type 3 diabetes.

A recent study recently presented at the joint International Congress of Endocrinology/European Congress of Endocrinology in Florence, Italy investigated the association between high blood sugar and brain size in 312 elderly adults aged 70 to 90 years old. They divided the participants into four groups: those with normal blood sugar levels, those with prediabetes, those whose blood sugar had worsened over two years, and those with type 2 diabetes.

Compared to the group with normal blood sugar levels, those with prediabetes lost 1.4 times more brain volume than the normal group over the two-year time period of the study. Those with worsening blood sugar or with diabetes lost 2.3 times more brain volume than the group with normal blood sugar. Enough said.

How’s your blood sugar? Checked it lately? If not, I suggest you do. And you may be interested to know that even so-called normal blood sugar levels (fasting blood sugar under 100 mg/dL) may be harmful. The Life Extension Foundation recommends normal blood sugar levels of 75–85 mg/dL based on a 22-year study in healthy, non-diabetic men that found that those with blood glucose levels above 85 mg/dL are at a 40 percent increased risk of heart attack.

Getting your blood sugar under control is an important part of achieving overall health. I talk about the link between high blood sugar, heart disease, chronic disease, and the gut connection in my new PBS show and book, Heart of Perfect Health. (Check for nationwide airing of the show beginning in November.)