In episode 126 of his video series, Dr. Larson discusses:
I have some sobering statistics in the field of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers conclude that over the next twenty years, the cases are going to double. Women are going to shoulder most of the burden. The number of women being diagnosed will go from 4.7 to 8.5 million over the next two decades. And the number of men being diagnosed will go from 2.6 to 4.5 million. And if you add those two together, that is going to total over 13 million cases.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, although there are many different types. Researchers who have been looking for treatments are probably going to be left with a list of failed avenues. The hope for a monotherapy to work is a very remote cause. Researchers will probably break Alzheimer’s down into different types to find targeted therapies, but the hope that they will make any huge dent is very doubtful.
The cost of dementia is going to soar to over 2 trillion dollars in the next twenty years, which is going to have researchers turning to a way to try to mitigate cost instead of trying to find some miracle cure. The research will probably be focused on things like lifestyle and diet, and things like community and workplace support, and other ways to decrease costs, going forward.
DR. CHAD LARSON
What can we do to decrease these statistics and stop recent studies from becoming a reality? There was a study recently published in the journal Science, out of Boston University. What researchers found was that during a certain period of sleep, there is something miraculous that happens in the brain. We know from current literature that Alzheimer’s has a common thread. Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients have an accumulation of toxins in the brain, specifically beta-amyloid and tau.
They are two proteins that aren’t supposed to be present in the brain to any significant degree, but in dementia, there is an over-accumulation that stops the normal function of the neurons. Researchers in this particular study were able to monitor patients while they were sleeping using MRI. With an MRI, you can see changes in the function of the brain in a very detailed way. It was a very expensive study, so the numbers of subjects were low, but what they found was that during a very certain period of deep sleep, when the brain waves were very slow, something amazing happened.
There are two different phases of sleep, the non-REM (deep sleep phase) and the REM (dream sleep). Throughout the night, you cycle through the phases about every 90 minutes. At the beginning of sleep, you are in more the non-REM phase, and toward the morning, the REM phase is more dominant.
During non-REM sleep, brain activity remains very low. And it was during that period that researchers noticed that there was a decrease in blood flow in the brain, while simultaneously, there was a significant increase in CSF flow. Cerebrospinal fluid, or a fluid that is found in the brain and spinal cord, is what the brain basically swims in. During the deep sleep portion of the sleep cycle, researchers noticed a power washing of the brain. The neurons appeared to get a power washing type effect during the deep sleep that washed out the proteins that accumulate in dementia.
It is these findings that can help us put together a protocol of ways to mitigate dementia going forward. Dale Bredesen, MD, author of The End of Alzheimer’s, is already putting together a multi-factor list of things that go into developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Some of the sleep information in this study, I have also read about from Matthew Walker in Why We Sleep, which is an excellent source to understand the importance of sleep and what it does. He is a researcher out of UC Berkeley and has written extensively about sleep. And he continues to run a sleep lab where he studies the effects of it. Walker has already talked about components of the recent findings to some degree.
This study is fascinating because it was the first time that this power washing effect was really observed. And a lot more studies will likely be focused on this deep sleep phase and its importance. So this is just one thing that you can do to help mitigate one risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. A lot of people are choosing to sacrifice sleep, and it is putting them on a fast track to brain degeneration and dementia. Sleep cannot be underestimated when it comes to your brain and body health. So try to get the sleep you need to help reduce your risk and mitigate the effects of dementia.