Sleep And Dementia: Is There A Connection
The relationship between sleep and dementia is complex. Researchers arent sure whether poor sleep increases the risk of dementia or vice versa or whether both or neither are true.
A small study published in the August 2017 issue of the journal Neurology offers some support for a sleep-dementia connection and the possibility that improving sleep habits might lessen dementia risk.
After following 321 subjects for as long as 19 years, the researchers saw 32 cases of dementia develop. Overall, every minute less of REM sleep was associated with approximately a 9 percent increase in the risk of dementia.
What Do We Know About Reducing Risk For Dementia
The number of older Americans is rising, so the number of people with dementia is predicted to increase. However, some studies have shown that incidence rates of dementia meaning new cases in a population over a certain period of time have decreased in some locations, including in the United States. Based on observational studies, factors such as healthy lifestyle behaviors and higher levels of education may be contributing to such a decline. But the cause and effect is uncertain, and such factors need to be tested in a clinical trial to prove whether they can prevent dementia.
A review of published research evaluated the evidence from clinical trials on behavior and lifestyle changes to prevent or delay Alzheimers or age-related cognitive decline. The review found encouraging but inconclusive evidence for three types of behavioral changes : physical activity, blood pressure control, and cognitive training. The findings mean that interventions in these areas are promising enough that researchers should keep studying them to learn more. Researchers continue to explore these and other interventions to determine whether and in what amounts or forms they might prevent dementia.
Watch a video below that highlights conclusions and recommendations from the research review.
How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Unfortunately, there is no single test that can confirm Alzheimers disease. A diagnosis comes after careful assessment. This may involve:
- a detailed medical history
- urine and blood tests
- medical imaging, such as an MRI scan to assess shrinking of the brain
After eliminating other possible causes of symptoms , a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimers can be made.
An early diagnosis allows your doctor to work out if there is another cause of your symptoms that may be treatable. If a diagnosis of Alzheimers disease is most likely, you can start to discuss medical treatment and further assistance to help slow the degenerative process.
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What Do We Know About Individual Foods
Many foods blueberries, leafy greens, and curcumin , to name a few have been studied for their potential cognitive benefit. These foods were thought to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant or other properties that might help protect the brain. So far, there is no evidence that eating or avoiding a specific food can prevent Alzheimers disease or age-related cognitive decline.
But scientists continue to look for clues. One study, based on older adults reports of their eating habits, found that eating a daily serving of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale was associated with slower age-related cognitive decline, perhaps due to the neuroprotective effects of certain nutrients. Research has also shown that eating a diet that includes regular fish consumption is associated with higher cognitive function and slower cognitive decline with age. Another recent study, in mice, found that consuming a lot of salt increased levels of the protein tau, found in the brains of people with Alzheimers, and caused cognitive impairment.
What Are Some Complications Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is an irreversible form of dementia. The rate of progression differs between people: some people have it only in the last 5 years of their life, while others may have it for as long as 20 years. Alzheimers disease eventually leads to complete dependence and increasing frailty. This means a secondary illness, such as pneumonia, may eventually cause death.
Other complications of Alzheimers disease may include:
- an inability to complete daily tasks such as planning meals and managing money
- a tendency to wander from home
- personality changes such as anxiety, depression and irritability that make relationships more difficult
- delusions and hallucinations in advanced stages of the disease
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What You Should Eat To Prevent Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease affects over 13 million people worldwide. Many of my patients fear this most common form of dementia, and with good reason. The disease is not completely understood, and it is not possible to predict who will fall victim. With treatment costs for Alzheimers topping 100 billion dollars in the United States alone, the medical community is eager to unlock the mysteries of this disease.
In my review of recent studies on Alzheimers, I found plenty of promising news. A handful of studies show that your eating habits in middle age can have an effect on your Alzheimers risk. Some of you may already be consuming the foods that researchers believe can ward off the disease, particularly antioxidant-rich fruits.
Fruit: The Proven Alzheimers Foe
Alzheimers is a degenerative disease of the brain. Many scientists believe that plaque build up causes nerve cell damage from oxidative stress. This leads to the decrease in cognitive function that characterizes Alzheimers. Fruits contain protective antioxidants called polyphenols that protect the cells from oxidative stress.
A separate study uncovered the proven benefits of another superfruitblueberries. These sweet berries contain flavanols and anthocyanins, antioxidants that appear to improve memory. The researchers believe that these substances strengthen existing neuronal connections and stimulate cell regeneration.
Juice Helps Too
Schedule Dinner With A Friend
Recent research has given us all another reason to reach out and connect with a friend or make new relationships with neighbors. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that social isolation was connected to a 50% increased risk of dementia in addition to other serious medical conditions.
Further, research published in PLOS Medicine followed adults for 28 years to see how lifestyle could affect aging, including cognitive skills. They found that those who had frequent social contact had a positive effect on the brain, creating a cognitive reserve, reducing stress and promoting other healthy behaviors.
Take this as your sign to call your friend and set up a time to grab coffee or dinner.
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Pillar #: Social Engagement
Human beings are highly social creatures. We dont thrive in isolation, and neither do our brains. Staying socially engaged may even protect against symptoms of Alzheimers disease and dementia in later life, so make developing and maintaining a strong network of friends a priority.
You dont need to be a social butterfly or the life of the party, but you do need to regularly connect face-to-face with someone who cares about you and makes you feel heard. While many of us become more isolated as we get older, its never too late to meet others and develop new friendships:
- Join a club or social group.
- Visit your local community center or senior center.
- Take group classes .
- Get to know your neighbors.
- Make a weekly date with friends.
- Get out .
Increase Your Social Engagement
Compelling research suggests seniors who spend most of their time in their immediate home environment are almost twice as likely to develop AD compared to those who travel more. These findings, however, may also reflect the general health of the individuals.
The Mayo Clinic advises that being engaged with your surroundings is good for your mental, physical, and emotional health.
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Keep On Top Of Your Health
Depression, hearing loss and even low levels of sleep have all been linked to a greater incidence of dementia , so getting control of these as they occur can reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life. Blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are also important to maintain at a healthy level as you get older. Regularly having check ups as you get older can also help spot any issues as soon as they present, often improving the outcome, even in dementia.
If you think that mum, dad or a close elderly relative is showing early signs of dementia it is definitely worth exploring a lasting power of attorney sooner rather than later.
What Are The Top Ten Ways To Naturally Prevent Dementia:
It is important to address many of the underlying causes of dementia. Dementia is a multifactorial condition.
The Paleo diet is rich in essential protein, fats and the right type of carbohydrates to support brain health. It is highly anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense. It provides the antioxidants and nutrients needed for optimal neurotransmitter function.
Research has shown that the currently popular high carbohydrate diet is evolutionarily discordant and contributes to Alzheimers disease development by altering lipid metabolism and damaging cells .
The suns UVB rays hit the skin and convert cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D. The sun is your best source of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies have been liked to an increased risk of developing dementia .
Additionally, abnormal cholesterol levels have also been associated with the development of dementia and Alzheimers disease . The sun is a powerful tool for keeping brain cells happy and healthy by regulating cholesterol levels and increasing vitamin D concentrations.
Cognitive- stimulating activities such as reading a book, learning a new hobby or even doing a puzzle have been shown to prevent dementia.
Exercising your mind is beneficially similar to exercising your body. It helps to increase the strength and communication between neuron connections.
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Detect And Treat Diabetes
Diabetes, and its treatments, can impact the brain and cognitive function, making it another risk factor for Alzheimers disease. A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies showed that people with diabetes are at higher risk of Alzheimers . If drugs were available to improve cognitive deficits, could this slow decline?
Speak A Second Language
Learning a second language can help you out during your next international trip and help you feel empowered because you are learning something new. But learning a new language can also help improve your cognitive skills, helping to keep dementia at bay. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reports that lifelong bilingualism can prevent cognitive decline and may help delay the onset of dementia.
If you havent been speaking a second language for your lifetime, dont despair. You can still reap significant benefits from learning a new language in your senior years. The Glasgow Memory Clinic states that people who learn a new language tend to have lower rates of dementia and memory issues later. While direct reasoning is not yet determined, it appears that learning a new language can cause resiliency in the brain, helping to reduce the chance of dementia or even delay its onset.
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How To Prevent Or Delay Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is a chronic, progressive degenerative brain disorder that breaks down and eventually destroys brain cells and the neurons that connect brain cells to one another.
The disease usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. It is a common form of dementia, leading to a decline in memory, behavior and mental capabilities. According to the Alzheimers Association, Alzheimers disease makes up 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Experts do not know the exact cause of Alzheimers disease. However, three major risk factors are age, family history and genetics. Also, women may be more likely to have Alzheimers disease than men. In addition, people with mild cognitive impairment and past head trauma appear to have a greater risk of developing it.
Early symptoms of Alzheimers disease are memory and recall difficulties. With time, people start having problems with comprehension, speaking, reading, writing and performing day-to-day activities.
People with AD may also experience depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, a change in sleeping habits, social withdrawal and distrust in others.
There is no cure for AD. However, if you are at risk of developing this disease, you can prevent or slow its progression with lifestyle changes, dietary changes and simple home remedies. These measures will work best when used early in the course of the disease.
Here are the top 10 ways to prevent or delay Alzheimers disease.
Why Are Social Activities Good For The Brain
Having a conversation with someone can also exercise a wide range of your mental skills, for example:
- actively listening to and communicating with the other person
- considering the meaning of what someone is trying to tell you and how they feel
- finding the right way to express what you want to say and putting words together in the right order for someone to understand
- recalling things that have happened which are relevant to what youre talking about.
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Caring For Someone With Alzheimers Disease
Caring for someone with Alzheimers disease can be hard but also rewarding. Your emotional and physical support will be a great help when the person’s world seems confusing and hostile. Take advantage of the community support thats available for people with Alzheimers disease, their families and carers.
Pillar #: Quality Sleep
There are a number of links between poor sleep patterns and the development of Alzheimers and dementia. Some studies have emphasized the importance of quality sleep for flushing out toxins in the brain. Others have linked poor sleep to higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain, a sticky protein that can further disrupt the deep sleep necessary for memory formation.
If nightly sleep deprivation is slowing your thinking and or affecting your mood, you may be at greater risk of developing or deteriorating symptoms of Alzheimers disease. To help improve your sleep:
Establish a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms. Your brains clock responds to regularity.
Set the mood. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, and ban television and computers from the bedroom .
Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Take a hot bath, do some light stretches, listen to relaxing music, or dim the lights. As it becomes habit, your nightly ritual will send a powerful signal to your brain that its time for deep restorative sleep.
Quiet your inner chatter. When stress, anxiety, or worrying keeps you awake, get out of bed. Try reading or relaxing in another room for twenty minutes then hop back in.
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Understand Dementia Risk Factors Based On The Cause
Alzheimers disease is associated with sticky protein deposits on the surface of the brain. Vascular dementia results from atherosclerosis plaque buildup and narrowing of the arteries that compromise blood flow to the brain. We now understand that many people actually have a mix of both types of dementia, so its important to think about ways to treat or prevent both kinds.
Evaluating The Latest Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Research
A recent review of research looked carefully at the evidence on ways to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s dementia or age-related cognitive decline. Led by a committee of experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine , the review found “encouraging but inconclusive” evidence for three types of interventions:
The evidence for other interventions, such as medications and diet, was not as strong. However, scientists are continuing to explore these and other possible preventions.
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The Importance Of Vascular Health
At present, researchers are still trying to understand the causes of Alzheimers disease and how to treat it.
But, vascular causes of dementia are another story. Vascular disease can cause or worsen dementia. Diseased blood vessels, along with high blood pressure, can cause tiny areas of bleeding or blocked blood flow to the brain silent strokes that may not even cause noticeable symptoms.
But when these small areas of brain injury happen over and over again, a person can develop problems with memory, gait, balance and other brain functions. Researchers are exploring the role of vascular disease in the development of Alzheimers dementia in particular, but its not yet clear if or how this occurs.
Taking steps to improve the health of your blood vessels involves lifestyle changes. Since brain changes can start decades before dementia symptoms appear, the earlier you begin preserving your vascular health, the better for your brain.
Heres a bonus: Improving blood vessel health helps you avoid stroke, heart attack and other serious diseases.
It’s been estimated that one in three cases of dementia is preventable. You cant do anything right now to stop or reverse the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimers disease, but you can do something about hypertension and vascular disease risk factors.
Diet And Dementia Risk
Changes in the brain can occur years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. These early brain changes suggest a possible window of opportunity to prevent or delay dementia symptoms. Scientists are looking at many possible ways to do this, including drugs, lifestyle changes and combinations of these interventions. Unlike other risk factors for Alzheimers that we cant change, such as age and genetics, people can control lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and cognitive training.
How could what we eat affect our brains? Its possible that eating a certain diet affects biological mechanisms, such as oxidative stress and inflammation, that underlie Alzheimers. Or perhaps diet works indirectly by affecting other Alzheimers risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A new avenue of research focuses on the relationship between gut microbes tiny organisms in the digestive system and aging-related processes that lead to Alzheimers.