According to a new study, older adults who underwent positive airway pressure treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Researchers from Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Centers looked at Medicare claims from more than 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and up, who were diagnosed with OSA. The findings of the study were published in the journal titled ‘Sleep’.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen.
OSA is associated with a variety of other neurological and cardiovascular conditions, and many older adults are at high risk for this disorder, according to health experts.
In this study, they examined if those people who used positive airway pressure therapy were less likely to get a new diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive impairment over the next three years, compared to people who did not use positive airway pressure.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Galit Levi Dunietz, an assistant professor of neurology and a sleep epidemiologist said, “We found a significant association between positive airway pressure use and lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia over three years, suggesting that positive airway pressure may be protective against dementia risk in people with OSA.”
“The findings also emphasize the impact of sleep on cognitive function. If a causal pathway exists between OSA treatment and dementia risk, as our findings suggest, diagnosis and effective treatment of OSA could play a key role in the cognitive health of older adults,” noted the principal investigator of the study, Dr. Tiffany J Braley, an associate professor of neurology at University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation.