Washington – New research shown at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), suggest that sleeping problems may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and that being physically active may actually reduce Alzheimer’s disease (AD) biomarkers, including amyloid and tau protein in the brain.
Disrupted sleep may be one of the missing pieces in explaining how the amyloid protein starts its damage long before people have trouble with memory, researchers reported. Sleep problems actually interact with some of the disease processes involved in Alzheimer’s, and that those toxic proteins in turn affect the deep sleep that’s so important for memory formation.
“It’s very clear that sleep disruption is an under-appreciated factor,” said Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, who illustrated this research which links amyloid levels with people’s sleep and memory performance. “It’s a new player on the scene that increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Sleep problems are treatable – and a key next question is whether improving sleep can make a difference in protecting seniors’ brains. “Sleep is a modifiable factor. It’s a new treatment target.” concluded Dr. Walker.
Exercise could also benefit patients with types of dementia other than AD, another study suggests.
Danish researchers showed that older adults with mild to moderate AD who were persistent at least 80% to an aerobic exercise program and maintained at least 70% of their maximum heart rate (the “high exercise” group) had a statistically significant advantage on the over a control group which exercised less.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer, Maria Carrillo notes, “Based on the results we heard reported today at AAIC 2015, exercise or regular physical activity might play a role in both protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and also living better with the disease if you have it.”
So far, lifestyle changes are the main recommendation, and starting early seems important. Yaffe also reported Monday that younger adults who get little physical activity have worse cognitive functioning by middle age