New Evidence of a Link Between Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer's
New research suggests obstructive sleep apnea in older adults may raise Alzheimer’s disease risk. According to the researchers, over time, people with sleep apnea seem to experience greater buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s.
This study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, confirms earlier research linking sleep disorders to cognitive decline. It also indicates that the associated risk is related to the severity of the obstructive sleep apnea; that is, older adults with severe sleep apnea are at higher risk for changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s.
The research involved 208 participants, age 55 to 90, with normal cognitive function as measured by standard tests. None of the participants had a known medical condition that affected brain function or were being treated for sleep apnea. Researchers did lumbar punctures (spinal taps) and PET (positron-emission tomography) scans to measure amyloid deposits in the brain. They discovered a correlation between obstructive sleep apnea and increased indicators of Alzheimer’s risk over a 2-year period.