Is sleep apnea linked to Alzheimer’s disease?

Is sleep apnea linked to Alzheimer’s disease?

Sleep apnea treatment near Seattle

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most feared conditions of aging. Millions of Americans suffer from this devastating illness. Most people would strongly prefer to avoid Alzheimer’s disease if possible. Surveys have shown that a majority of people fear Alzheimer’s disease more than any other disease, and many even fear it more than death. (Dementia is the loss of memory and cognitive ability; Alzheimer’s disease is just one form of dementia.)

Sleep apnea is very common, and most likely underdiagnosed. Research is increasingly demonstrating that diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is critical for maintaining health through the lifespan. In addition to its links to life-threatening diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, sleep apnea is also linked to the most highly feared disease, dementia.

Sleep apnea is linked to an increased risk of dementia

Many research studies have linked sleep apnea to an increased risk for getting dementia, as well as its earlier stage, which is known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). One study of hundreds of people showed that those with sleep apnea had higher levels of the protein beta-amyloid at baseline, and also showed a greater rate of accumulation of this protein. This protein is known to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, those with greater levels of daytime sleepiness have been found to have poorer memory, greater difficulties paying attention, and slower processing speed, all of which indicate cognitive decline.

Those with sleep disordered breathing (such as sleep apnea) were shown in one study to develop MCI an average of 12 years earlier than those without a sleep-related breathing disorder. It may be beneficial to evaluate all patients with MCI for sleep apnea. This allows sleep apnea to be treated, to reduce the likelihood that MCI will progress into dementia.

How does sleep apnea increase the risk of dementia?

Scientists believe that the low oxygen levels associated with sleep apnea are what lead to the increased risk of dementia. In a 2017 study, the risk of dementia was not linked to the total sleep time nor the number of times the patient woke up during the night. However, those whose oxygen levels dipped during sleep were significantly more likely to develop dementia. This suggests that the oxygen level in the blood is the important factor affecting brain health.

It is possible that lower oxygen accelerates the processes that produce beta-amyloid in the brain, by changing certain metabolic processes inside of brain cells. It is also possible that the decreased oxygen levels prevent the brain from clearing away waste products, which results in certain proteins building up in the brain. Scientists are not yet certain about the exact mechanisms behind the link between sleep apnea and dementia.

What can you do to reduce your risk? – sleep apnea treatment near Seattle

The research shows that having sleep apnea causes a greater risk for dementia. In addition, treating sleep apnea can greatly reduce the risk. In order to reduce your risk of dementia, it’s important to find out whether or not you have sleep apnea. You can start with a simple screening test. If this shows that you may have sleep apnea, then the next step will be a sleep study (either in a sleep lab or at home).

Those who have sleep apnea need treatment to reduce their risk of major health problems, including dementia as well as diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diseases. There are several different treatment options. One option is a CPAP machine, which blows air into your face at night to keep the airway open. Dr. Mulliken specializes in oral device therapy, which is preferred by many patients because it’s comfortable and convenient. To schedule your appointment with Dr. Mulliken, please contact our office.

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