High blood sugar can lead to dementia -- even without diabetes

The secret to healthy aging is hidden in your sugar -- your blood sugar, to be exact.

Even slightly elevated blood sugar levels can damage muscle and organs and speed the aging process. And now, new research uncovers one more reason to keep any eye out of signs of high blood sugar: Bumps in blood sugar could boost your dementia risk.

Keep your levels within the normal range -- fasting below 100 mg/dL, and preferably less than 90 mg/dL -- and you'll keep your risk within the normal range too.

But once you cross that line and notice signs of high blood sugar -- once you hit even the "slightly elevated" territory of 105 mg/dL -- your dementia risk jumps by 10 percent, according to the new study of 2,067 seniors.

And the higher your blood sugar levels climb, the higher your dementia risk.

At 115 mg/dL, for example, your risk shoots up by nearly a fifth.

What's remarkable about this level is that it's just high enough that you'll get a talk from your doctor for having signs of high blood sugar -- but since it's still well below the 126 mg/dL that marks diabetes, it's not quite high enough for many people to take action.

As a result, millions of people live within this range, ignoring the talks from their doctors and believing that as long as they stay below that diabetes cutoff, they have nothing to worry about.

Clearly, there's plenty to worry about -- because we've seen this link before.

In one recent study, brain scans found real changes in the brain that kick in with elevated blood sugar. Not diabetic blood sugar levels -- just elevated sugar, and the changes include reduced metabolism in key regions of the brain.

That's the same type of damage that we see in the brains of dementia patients.

If there's any good news here, it's that your blood sugar is within your control -- and you can usually bring your levels down to below 90 mg/dL through simple, basic lifestyle changes.

Start by eliminating processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates, and any signs of high blood sugar will almost certainly sink. If these changes alone don't do the trick, there are supplements that can help your body to use sugar in the blood more efficiently and more effectively, limiting the damage and bringing the levels down in the process.

A holistic doctor can help.

Of course, a good diet with healthy blood sugar levels means placing limits on snacks and junk food. But there are some treats you can still enjoy in moderation -- and one of the best treats of all is one you already love: chocolate.

Keep reading for more on how a little cocoa might actually help protect your brain.