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Women: wake up and get moving

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Researchers have found an interesting connection between sleep/wake/activity cycles and dementia. It seems that older women with weak circadian rhythm, who are more active later in the day (or not at all) are more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than women who are active in the morning and have a strong activity rhythm.

“We’ve known for some time that circadian rhythms, what people often refer to as the body clock, can have an impact on our brain and our ability to function normally,” explained Greg Tranah, PhD, a scientist at the California pacific medical Center Research Institute and lead author.

Data was collected on 1,282 women over the age of 75. At the beginning of the study, none of them had cognitive impairment. At the end of the study five years later, 15% had developed dementia and 24% had some mild cognitive impairment (MCI). For the women with weak circadian rhythms whose activity was in the late day, they showed the highest risk of developing neurological problems.

“This was not a small difference, but a rather sizable, statistically significant one,” said Tranah. “Those who had the later wake times, whose activity was later in the day, were 80% more likely to develop MCI or dementia compared to women who had earlier wake times and earlier activity.”

Circadian rhythms play a role ion regulating certain brain functions like alertness, learning and memory. As we age, those rhythms weaken and may have a connection to compromised brain function.

“To our knowledge this is the first study to show such a strong connection between circadian activity rhythm and the subsequent development of dementia or MCI,” Tranah explained. “The reasons why this is so are not yet clear… Identifying what the reason is could help us develop therapies to delay, or slow down, the development of brain problems in the elderly.”

Source: Annals of Neurology, MedicalNewsToday


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