Amyloid Plaques and Alzheimer’s Disease

Neurons

Alzheimer’s Disease affects millions of Americans, but right now, there isn’t a known cure. Researchers in Connecticut, however, suggest that the solution might lie in understanding the gooey protein that builds up in brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

That’s how WNPR introduced an article on Alzheimer’s Prevention: Understanding Malicious Brain Proteins.

Modern Health Talk has spent a lot of time covering sleep issues because of the direct relationship between good sleep and health, safety and performance. That includes its relationship with Alzheimer’s, so I added the following comment and include it in today’s post, along with an introductory video by the National Institutes of Health.

MY COMMENT:

New research suggests a direct relationship between the increase in Alzheimer’s and the amount of restorative sleep we get. We humans tend to sleep two hours less per night than we did before electricity and artificial lights were introduced some 150 years ago, because that light disrupts our circadian rhythm. But how might sleep affect Alzheimer’s?

As we sleep, our brains quite literally clear out the waste accumulated from the metabolic process of thought. Think of neurons like fish in an aquarium and amyloid plaques as the accumulation of fish poop, a byproduct of eating food (for neurons that’s glucose). Without a filtration system, that poop can foul the water and eventually kill the fish. But the brain doesn’t take part in the body’s lymphatic filtration system and relies on It’s own.

Mice studies show that during deep sleep the neurons actually shrink in size so the cerebral fluid can circulate faster to remove amyloid proteins and waste, and without enough sleep those proteins aren’t flushed out and instead form the sticky plaque associated with Alzheimer’s. So we view not getting enough sleep as a major contributor to this disease. After all, sleep deficiency is so closely tied to heart & kidney disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and other health conditions that the CDC has labeled it “a public health epidemic.” And that’s why Intelligent Sleep is focused on sleep as the third leg of wellness, along with nutrition and exercise.

See Goodnight, Sleep Clean in New York Times and the many mHealthTalk articles on dementia & Alzheimer’s.