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experience nightmares and frequent bad dreams during middle age or old age may be a marker of an increased risk of developing dementiaaccording to new research findings.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and approximately 5.8 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s and related dementias. It is estimated that the number of cases of this pathology will increase to about 14 million by 2060.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK published a study in The Lancet’s eClinicalMedicine journal suggesting that persistent nightmares can be an early sign of cognitive decline and dementia that can occur for several years, or even decades, before dementia symptoms begin to manifest.
Data from three large US studies on health and aging were analyzed, which included more than 600 adults between the ages of 35 and 64 and 2,600 adults aged 79 and older.
The participants were dementia-free at the start of the study and were followed for an average of nine years for the middle-aged group and five years for the oldest group. From 2002 to 2012, the participants filled out various questionnaires, including one asking how often they experienced nightmares.
Risk of cognitive impairment
The researchers found that middle-aged people between the ages of 35 and 64 who had weekly nightmares were four times more likely to experience a decline in cognitive function over the following decade, a precursor to dementia.
Meanwhile, older participants were found to be twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
“We have shown for the first time that distressing dreams or nightmares may be related to dementia risk and cognitive decline among healthy adults in the general population,” said Abidemi Otaiku, a researcher at the Center for Human Brain Health at the University of Tokyo. from Birmingham.
“This is important because there are very few risk indicators for dementia that can be identified as early as middle age. While more work is needed to confirm these links, we believe that bad dreams could be a useful way of identify people at high risk of developing dementia and establish strategies to delay the onset of the diseaseOtaiku added.
The researchers plan to look at the association between nightmares and younger groups of people, as well as other characteristics of dreams, such as vivid dreams and how well participants recall their dreams.
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