There are a lot of reasons that Alzheimer’s disease can be scary, but the main one is all the unknowns: what happens in some people’s brains, and if or how the progression of symptoms can be slowed down. The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is hoping for answers to both of these questions, and someday, a way to cure it completely!
Until then, we’ll continue to assist patients in the Cedar Rapids area who have been diagnosed with this form of dementia and their families. Along with the mental and emotional challenges involved with loved ones forgetting their memories and other important details, family members and caregivers can face other challenges such as security and safety.
We’re also always happy to share what we’ve observed with our patients and learned from Iowa medical providers over the years, whether someone is just beginning to show signs of the disease or their disease is more advanced and they may need hospice care.
We also keep an eye on much of the research taking place at a national level, since Alzheimer’s is becoming a huge focus as the population ages. Some studies are looking at possible causes; some are looking at possible ways to delay its onset or to slow its progression, and some are looking at how other health factors may impact the disease positively or negatively.
One area that is interesting researchers is possible links between Alzheimer’s disease and sleep.
It’s well-known that regular sleep can benefit people’s health, and poor sleep habits can be detrimental. Poor sleep can also make people more susceptible to other health conditions as well, including memory problems.
One common sleep disorder is sleep apnea, where an individual stops breathing in small amounts during the sleep cycle, from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Even if the person believes they receive plenty of sleep and don’t remember stopping breathing, their body is never able to go into deeper REM sleep cycles where much of the healing activity from effective rest takes place.
Instead, their body may wake up several times through the night, leaving people fatigued and often causing all sorts of problems, from heart disease to high blood pressure to increasing the risk of diabetes.
There are a variety of ways to treat sleep apnea, from masks that provide a steady amount of air or other dental devices keep the airway open. People suffering from it are encouraged to lose weight as well since obesity can also contribute to it.
In summer 2017, the Alzheimer’s Association announced that new research indicated that sleep apnea can also contribute to a greater risk of dementia.
The study showed that sleep-disordered breathing can cause an increase in beta-amyloid in the brain, which has lower levels when people have better sleep conditions.
Beta-amyloid plaque has already been known to affect the brain in people with Alzheimer’s disease, and the more people accumulate, the more prominent the Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Researchers believe that the apnea can accelerate a person’s progression into mild cognitive Alzheimer’s or other dementia symptoms, even if the person has been in relatively good mental or physical health in the preceding years.
This particular study followed 298 elderly women with an average age of 82, over a 5-year-period. It included people with mild cognitive decline and standard cognitive behavior and separated them into those with sleep-disordered breathing and a control group that had normal sleeping habits. Higher levels of beta-amyloids were found in the sleep disordered group, about a third of all the participants.
The participants were observed physically and also given regular tests to assess mental function.
Similar studies also found that not breathing and under-breathing can contribute to dementia. Possible conclusions include that oxygen deprivation can play a role in accelerating the onset of Alzheimer’s, or that lack of REM sleep can also play a role. But total sleep time or waking up regularly didn’t have as much of an impact as apnea or related disorders.
Interestingly, this connection between apnea and Alzheimer’s disease may help provide more information about Alzheimer’s beyond a possible indictator: it could explain why cases of apnea are especially high in patients with Alzheimer’s, especially symptoms
Consult your provider
If you or a loved one experience sleep apnea, consult a healthcare provider right away, regardless of any Alzheimer or dementia concerns.
The lack of sleep can cause more immediate physical and mental health conditions, and he or she can help you find effective remedies to help improve this condition. If sleep apnea or other disorders could accelerate dementia, then it’s even more critical to take action to improve it.
A provider may order a PET scan of a brain, which can show its structure, including the possible presence of beta-amyloids or different materials that can indicate Alzheimer’s disease or the potential for Alzheimer’s disease.
If a Cedar Rapids resident is receiving home health care or hospice care or considering these services, a representative would like to know if sleep apnea conditions are present as part of the patient’s overall health profile.
For more information on Alzheimer’s, apnea or other health conditions, contact Above and Beyond Home Health Care.