Older adults who received positive airway pressure therapy prescribed for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia, report researchers at Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Centers.
The researchers analyzed Medicare claims of more than 50,000 beneficiaries age 65 and older diagnosed with OSA to see if those who used positive airway pressure therapy were less likely to receive a new diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive impairment over the next three years compared to those who did not use positive airway pressure.
“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,” said lead author and sleep epidemiologist Galit Levi Dunietz, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of neurology.
The findings stress the impact of sleep on cognitive function, the researchers said.
“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,” said principal investigator Tiffany J. Braley, MD, MS, associate professor of neurology.
OSA is a condition in which the upper airway collapses repeatedly throughout the night, preventing normal breathing during sleep. It is associated with a variety of other neurological and cardiovascular conditions, the researchers said, and many older adults are at high risk.
Dementia also is prevalent, with approximately 5.8 million Americans living with it, Braley said.
The study, “Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment and Dementia Risk in Older Adults,” was published by Sleep.