Why some elders develop Alzheimer’s disease and others do not remains a medical puzzle, but researchers are coming closer to understanding the process. An article on The Alzheimer’s Forum website reports on the results of two new human studies connecting loss of oxygen to the brain with Alzheimer’s.
Recently, researchers led by Henrik Zetterberg at the University of Gothenburg, Mölndal, Sweden, reported that cardiac arrest, an extreme form of hypoxia (loss of oxygen to the brain), causes a massive surge in blood amyloid-b peptide levels which are thought to be central to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The Alzheimer’s Forum articles goes on to state that, “… researchers led by Matej Oresic at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, analyzed panels of metabolites in the blood of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or AD. In a Translational Psychiatry paper...they report that a marker of hypoxia distinguishes people with MCI who go on to develop AD from those who remain stable.”
Both studies suggest that hypoxia is a factor that tilts an aging brain toward AD. The information from these studies might help explain the consistent link seen between cardiovascular health and AD risk.
Sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s disease
Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which a person has one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while sleeping. According to the Alzheimer’s Forum article:
“…a recent large prospective epidemiological study showed that elderly women with sleep apnea have an almost doubled risk of developing cognitive impairment within five years compared to those who sleep normally, again implicating hypoxia in early neurodegeneration.”
Again, we are looking at a condition that prohibits normal oxygen levels from reaching the brain. Therefore, if this common disorder of sleep apnea is ignored by any of us – and it seems to worsen with age – we could be putting ourselves more at risk for Alzheimer’s.
Therefore, if your spouse complains of your snoring, especially snoring interrupted by silent pauses where you don’t seem to be breathing and then you suddenly snort and go on with regular sleep, listen up. Talk to your doctor about a sleep study. There are treatments for sleep apnea, one of which is a mask that you wear during sleep that forces you to breathe in oxygen.
Aerobic exercise once again to the rescue?
When I read this article, I immediately made the mental jump to the importance of aerobic exercise. Anything that gets our heart pumping will help send oxygen throughout our whole body. Once again, it seems logical to conclude that what is good for our heart is good for our brain.
Sometimes we feel helpless when it comes to preventing AD. We can throw up our hands and leave it to “fate.” However, studies show that there are some things we can do that may, in at least some circumstances, prevent or forestall Alzheimer’s disease. One of those “things” may be getting aerobic exercise.