How Well You Do This One Thing Predicts Your Alzheimer's Risk, Study Says

You might be able to postpone the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is a challenging disease that we still have a lot to learn about. Health experts have long been trying to understand the various risk factors and timing of Alzheimer's onset. While the disease remains something of a mystery, researchers have been able to identify some potential causes, including a genetic susceptibility to the condition. Most recently, a September study found that how well you sleep could potentially predict your Alzheimer's risk.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found a way to estimate a time frame for when Alzheimer's is most likely to begin during a person's life.

"We have found that the sleep you're having right now is almost like a crystal ball telling you when and how fast Alzheimer's pathology will develop in your brain," co-author Matthew Walker, MD, said in a statement. The study showed that a surplus of deep, restorative sleep could be the best defense against Alzheimer's.

Woman sleeping in bed

The study examined the sleep quality of 32 healthy adults, from 60 to 80 years old, in correlation with the buildup of the plaque beta-amyloid, which is found on the brains of patients with Alzheimer's. The researchers found that people who began to experience more fragmented sleep and less non-rapid eye movement (REM) slow-wave sleep were more likely to display a heightened amount of beta-amyloid over the course of the study. With this understanding, researchers can predict the increase in beta-amyloid plaques, which are widely considered to be an identifier of the onset of Alzheimer's.

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"The silver lining here is that there's something we can do about it. The brain washes itself during deep sleep, and so there may be the chance to turn back the clock by getting more sleep earlier in life," said Walker.

These findings emphasize the importance of good sleep in staying healthy and staving off diseases. The authors suggest that non-REM slow-wave sleep could be used as a therapeutic intervention that could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. This technique could potentially even be used to help people who are genetically more susceptible to Alzheimer's at least delay the disease. And to separate fact from fiction, dispel these 25 Myths About Sleep That Are Keeping You Up at Night.

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