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Studies Say Sleep, Healthy Habits, Reduce Cognitive Decline

Photo Credit: National Institute of Health

A new research study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer Association indicates that a certain class of molecules may help with diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.  According to a group of researchers from King’s College in London, the level of the fatty molecules which induce sleep in blood were higher in those participants in the study with amyloid in the brain, the peptide used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

The amyloid peptide forms plaques in the brain that are toxic to nerve cells. Plaque accumulation is thought to start many years before the appearance of symptoms such as memory loss, say the researchers.

“Having regular and healthy sleep patterns is one of several ways that overall healthy living reduces the risk of cognitive decline,” said Donna M. McGowan, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Rhode Island Chapter, in a statement with the publication of the study.

“It is never too late to make lifestyle changes that have immediate impacts on our overall health, particularly as people age,” she says.

Researchers hope that this study will lead to the development of new treatments and that a reliable diagnostic test could be used to identify people at risk.  A blood test is being considered.

“A much-needed pre-requisite for new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is a reliable diagnostic test that could be used to identify people at risk,” said Dr. Cristina Legido-Quigley, the lead researcher on the study at King’s College.  However, a  “blood”  would be cheaper than measuring amyloid in the brain and easier to do than a spinal tap. There is more work to be done.

So far, we have measured these molecules in nearly 600 participants, and hope to expand to the thousands to establish if a new diagnostic test in blood is indeed possible,” she says.

 Putting Research Findings to Practice

Besides getting quality sleep, as the study suggests, there is growing evidence detailed in the Alzheimer Association’s publication “10 Ways to Love Your Brain.,” that can reduce the risk of cognitive decline through practicing health habits.

 Here are 10 simple tips to consider…

Consider engaging in intense cardiovascular exercise because it elevates your heart rat and increase blood flow to your brain.  Several studies have found an association between participating in physical activity and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Challenge your mind.  Learning to think strategically may have short and long-term benefits for your brain. Play chess, complete a puzzle or play bridge. activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture.

Attend classes at your local college, community center or take courses on the internet can also reduce your risk of cognitive decline.

Quit smoking.  Research findings show that smoking increases cognitive decline. By not smoking you can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.

Your risk factors for dementia increase by having cardiovascular disease or a stroke. Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes can negatively impact your cognitive health.

Reduce the risk of brain injury that can result in cognitive decline and dementia. Always wear your seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike. Prevent falls.

Although research to show an association of diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction of cognitive decline. .

As shown by the above study, not sleeping enough because of insomnia or sleep apnea may result in memory problems.

Manage your stress level. Some research studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline.  Manage your stress.

Build a social network.  Staying social engaged with family and friends is good for your brain health.

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