New York - 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, new research suggests.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) 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.
"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 Galit Levi Dunietz, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan.
For the study, published in the journal Sleep, the research team analyzed Medicare claims of more than 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older who had been diagnosed with OSA.
In this nationally representative study, 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 three years, compared to people who did not use positive airway pressure.
The findings stress the impact of sleep on cognitive function.
"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 researcher Tiffany J. Braley from the varsity.