According to two new studies, sleep patterns and fruit intake are linked to seniors’ risk of developing dementia. One study, out of Boston University, has linked sleeping more than nine hours a night with a higher risk of dementia. Meanwhile, a study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong has found that eating the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables each day reduces seniors’ chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Here’s what you should know about these findings, and how they may impact the way caregivers approach dementia care.
9+ Hours of Sleep Linked with Dementia Risk
In the study out of Boston University’s School of Medicine, researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study, an older study conducted between 1948 and 1958. This study tracked over 2,400 individuals over a ten-year period and was originally used to study risk factors for poor cardiovascular health.
Researchers at Boston University, led by Dr. Sudha Seshadri, re-examined the risk factors tracked by the study and compared them against which participants contracted dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.
The researchers found that study participants who reported sleeping nine or more hours on average each night were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s by the end of the study. The researchers were unable to determine whether sleeping longer caused the higher risk of dementia or if it was simply an early symptom in people who were already at high risk.
Risk Lowered by Recommended Fruit & Vegetable Intake
Most of us already know the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. That fact is underscored by new findings out of China that link fruit and vegetable intake to a person’s risk of developing dementia. The study, conducted under the leadership of Dr. Linda Lam, tracked 17,700 older adults, all of whom began the study without dementia. Researchers followed the dietary habits of these adults over the span of six years.
Researchers found that participants who followed the “five-a-day” rule — three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day — were at significantly lower risk of developing dementia. That risk was even lower for subjects who ate an additional three servings of vegetables every day.
Impact on Dementia Care
While these two studies are only small pieces in the overall puzzle of dementia care, they can help caregivers and family members inform their approach to care. If you notice that an older loved one is sleeping longer than the average person, you might take steps to encourage a more brain-healthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, if you’re trying to lower the risk of dementia for a loved one, helping them follow a greener meal plan may significantly reduce their risk of cognitive decline.
And if you feel you could use a helping hand when it comes to dementia care, we encourage you to reach out to your local Visiting Angels office. Your local office will be more than happy to help by matching you with compassionate, in-home dementia care providers.