Helpful information from repuatable sources about caring for yourself or a loved one who has a debilitating condition.

March 29, 2018

People with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease are known to have disrupted sleep. New NIH-funded research, published online Jan. 29, 2018, in JAMA Neurology, links a disrupted sleep-wake cycle to an earlier, preclinical disease phase, in which people have evidence of the disease but no symptoms. The study, by researchers at the Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, suggests that a fragmented sleep-wake cycle might be explored as a biomarker for preclinical Alzheimer’s.

For the study, 189 people (average age, 66 years) wore watch-like sensors for 7 to 14 days to collect data about their rest and activity levels. These participants also kept a sleep diary. In addition, they had positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, or both to look for any biological signs of Alzheimer’s, including abnormal levels of the proteins amyloid and tau.

The researchers found that cognitively normal participants who had biological changes related to Alzheimer’s were more likely than those without these changes to have fragmented sleep-wake cycles, with higher-than-normal periods of rest during the day and more periods of activity at night.

Of the participants, 139 showed no evidence of Alzheimer’s, but 50 had abnormal amyloid plaques seen on PET scans or other signs of the disease. These 50 participants had more disruption in their circadian rest-activity (sleep-wake) cycles than those without evidence of Alzheimer’s. There were no significant differences between people with and without the ApoE4 genetic risk factor.

Increasing age also was associated with circadian dysfunction, particularly in men, the researchers found. However, after adjusting for age and gender, they concluded that aging and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease pathology have separate negative effects on circadian rhythm.

The question of whether circadian dysfunction contributes to Alzheimer’s disease pathology or vice versa is still being explored. Previous studies have shown a link between poor sleep quality and beta-amyloid levels in the brain, and findings in this study also suggest circadian dysfunction could contribute to early Alzheimer’s changes in the brain. Given that Alzheimer’s disease starts years before symptoms appear, these differences in the sleep-wake cycle could merit further study as an early indicator of disease.

Reference: Musiek ES, et al. Circadian rest-activity pattern changes in aging and preclinical Alzheimer disease. JAMA Neurology. 2018 Jan 29. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.4719. [Epub ahead of print]

March 29, 2018
Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

We all know that good nutrition is the foundation of good health. Healthy eating can help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, prevent the onset of chronic diseases, reduce inflammation, and speed recovery from injuries. On the other hand, poor nutrition is connected to a variety of health problems.

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April 2, 2018

By: Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams M.D., M.P.H., Surgeon General of the United States

Observing National Public Health Week, Surgeon General Adams called for forging new partnerships to improve the nation’s health and change our future together.

Every American deserves to live a long, healthy life, but we are falling short of that goal. Life expectancy in the U.S. has declined for the second year in a row. This decline marks the first time in half a century that American longevity has declined. This is a disturbing problem that faces us as we observe National Public Health Week, April 2-April 8.

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Scientific evidence about the importance of remaining socially engaged as we age continues to grow. Participating in social activities, such as visiting friends, volunteering, and getting out for events and trips, has been associated with better cognitive function, while low social engagement in late life has been associated with an increased risk of dementia (Krueger, 2009; Saczynski, 2006). Other research has shown that support from a spouse/partner and friends alleviates loneliness and improves well-being in older adults. Recent findings from Dr. Emily Rogalski and colleagues at Northwestern University studying cognitive “SuperAgers” add more evidence about the importance of positive social relationships (Maher, 2017).

Who are cognitive SuperAgers?

3 men sitting together on a bench and laughingNorthwestern’s SuperAgers cohort is made up of people age 80 and older whose episodic memory (memories of past personal events) is comparable to people 25 to 30 years younger (age 50-65). Over the seven years the research team has followed this group, their episodic memory test scores have not declined significantly, indicating remarkably resilient memory. What factors contribute to their elite performance?

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Tips for staying safe in cold weather

With winter's return, the colder temperatures bring some particular risks for older adults and people with chronic conditions. Older adults can lose body heat faster than when they were younger, and changes in their bodies can make it more difficult to be aware of a drop in body temperature. The result can be a dangerous condition called hypothermia.

Hypothermia occurs when a person's core body temperature drops to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Even a small drop in temperature and short exposure to cold weather can develop into hypothermia. Some warnings signs of hypothermia include slowed or slurred speech; sleepiness or confusion; shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs; poor control over body movements; slow reactions, or a weak pulse.

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You have been a safe driver for years. For you, driving means freedom and control. As you get older, changes in your body and your mind can affect how safely you drive.  If you are an older driver with a medical condition, or if you are a concerned caregiver,these resources will help you learn how medical conditions can affect driving, what to do if you're experiencing or witnessing certain warning signs, and where to learn more about medical conditions. 

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