LISTEN: Sleep Problems Could Increase Alzheimer's Risk Among Hispanics

How much or how little shut-eye you get could be affecting your ability to think, and it potentially could be raising your chance of developing Alzheimer's Disease.

"Sleep is very important to maintain proper brain health," says University of Miami Health System neurologist and sleep expert Dr. Alberto Ramos.

His study of middle age to older Hispanics finds those who sleep less than six hours or more than nine hours a day tended to see memory, organization and processing functions decline over time.

The belief is if your sleep deprived you tend to have altered hormones, higher blood pressure and increased heart rates which can lead to other medical conditions including dementia.

Researchers are not completely sure why those who sleep too much have cognitive impairment, but it could be tied to brain inflammation.

More than 5,000 Latinos from Miami, Chicago, the Bronx and San Diego were given neurocognative test at the start of the study and again seven years later to test brain function.

Hispanics have increased rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, "which we know are things that can cause over time brain damage or what we call vascular brain damage," and its scar accumulation "can actually worsen or increase the risk of Alzheimer's Disease. So we think that's one of the reasons why potentially Hispanics have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's."

Doctor Ramos hopes those with mild memory loss will consider talking with their general practitioners about getting tested for sleep problems, which is treatable.

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