According to a recent study done by Prashanthi Vemuri, an associate professor of radiology with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, adults who find that they are feeling sleepy during the day may be at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive, irreversible disease that affects the brain – including thinking skills, memory, and the ability to carry out normal, everyday tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia amongst older adults in Canada, with over 700,000 living with this debilitating condition, while a staggering 44 million people are affected worldwide.

While this latest study is only observational, it does suggest that daytime drowsiness along with lack of sleep can cause harmful accumulation of a plaque-building protein known as beta-amyloid. While it’s unclear exactly how much lack of sleep one needs to have in order for beta-amyloid to increase, the study does affirm that disrupted sleep may be a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related symptoms; though the rate at which Alzheimer’s affects one individual often varies in others. During the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, symptoms may be minimal, but those symptoms will worsen as the disease causes more damage to the brain.

Along with lack of sleep, there are other factors that can also put you at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Advancing age, for example, is one of the greatest risks, as once you reach the age of 65 your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years. You also have a higher chance of developing it if you’ve had or have family members with Alzheimer’s disease, such as a parent or a sibling. While it’s unknown what, exactly, causes Alzheimer’s to run in families, things like environmental factors, genetics and lifestyle may all play a part. Research has also suggested that there may also be a link between Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. The heart is responsible for pumping blood to the brain; while the brain gets the oxygen and nutrients that it needs in order to function properly.

While there are no known treatments that can stop Alzheimer’s, there are medications out there that can help relieve symptoms associated with dementia by increasing the brain’s neurotransmitters. Drugs like Aricept, Exelon, and Reminyl are used for symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, while Ebixa is used for symptoms of moderate to advanced Alzheimer’s. Whether you or someone you know has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s also a good idea to have a support system in place which includes friends and family members, coordinating care between health professionals, better education surrounding the disease, as well as participating in activities that can help improve the mood.