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Treat apnea, prevent dementia?

CPAP device for sleep apnea
Using a CPAP device to treat sleep apnea may prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in older adults. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Seniors who have sleep apnea which is treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices may also be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, new research shows.

In a nationally representative study of more than 50,000 people over age 65 conducted at Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Center, scientists looked at the diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive impairment among those who used CPAP regularly to treat their sleep apnea, compared to those who did not, over a three-year period.

They found that CPAP treatment significantly reduced participants’ risk of a dementia diagnosis during the study, concluding that proper sleep has a major impact on cognitive function.

“If a causal pathway exists between obstructive sleep apnea (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,” said principal investigator Tiffany J. Braley, M.D., an associate professor of neurology.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea now affects more than a quarter of the U.S. population between the ages of 30 and 70. In people with OSA, the upper airway collapses repeatedly throughout the night, preventing normal breathing during sleep. In addition to its association with dementia, OSA is also to related to a variety of other neurological conditions as well as serious cardiovascular problems. 

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