Maintaining and taking steps to lower blood sugar can help prevent age-related memory loss in everyone—not only those with diabetes—according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Aging, the American Diabetes Association and McKnight Brain Research Foundation.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center in New York City discovered that when compared with an increase in cholesterol and body weight, rising blood sugar levels is the only age-related change directly linked to cognitive decline. The study may explain why diabetics have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Since exercise improves the body’s ability to process glucose, researchers believe that combining regular physical activity with a healthy diet can help protect cognitive function, even as we age.

Learn more about monitoring blood sugar levels here.