Treat this sleep problem may reduce dementia risk

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In a new study from Michigan Medicine, researchers found older adults who received positive airway pressure therapy prescribed for obstructive sleep apnea may be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia.

In the study, the team analyzed Medicare claims of more than 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older who had been diagnosed with OSA.

They examined if those people who used positive airway pressure therapy were less likely to receive a new diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive impairment over the next 3 years, compared to people who did not use positive airway pressure.

The team found a big association between positive airway pressure use and lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia over three years.

This suggests that positive airway pressure may be protective against dementia risk in people with OSA.

The findings stress the impact of sleep on cognitive function.

The team says 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.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the upper airway collapses repeatedly throughout the night, preventing normal breathing during sleep.

OSA is associated with a variety of other neurological and cardiovascular conditions, and many older adults are at high risk for OSA.

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The study is published in Sleep. One author of the study is Galit Levi Dunietz, Ph.D., M.P.H.

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