Sleep Apnea linked to Alzheimer’s Disease
A new study has demonstrated at the upcoming American Academy of Neurology’s 71st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, reveals a connection between sleep apnea and increased levels of a toxic brain protein commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This is because they exhibit higher levels of amyloid beta, the chief component of the amyloid plaques that characterize the disease.
Sleep apnea is very common among the elderly, and many aren’t aware they have it,” said senior researcher Dr. Ricardo Osorio. An estimated 30 percent to 80 percent of the elderly suffer from sleep apnea, depending on how it’s defined.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when you have shallow breaths during sleep due to a collapse of the airway. This may cause the sleeper to wake up repeatedly during the night whenever breathing becomes difficult, resulting in disturbed sleep patterns. Several studies have suggested that sleep disturbances might contribute to amyloid deposits and accelerate cognitive decline in those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal condition in which memory deteriorates over time. Alzheimer’s affects some 5 million older Americans, and as the millions of baby boomers age, that number will only grow.
Mental deterioration accompanying sleep apnea has been noted frequently. Because sleep apnea increases with age, such deficits raise the possibility that dementia in the elderly could be related to sleep apnea. This chronic lack of deep sleep could, over many years, increase a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s due to the brain’s inability to effectively wash out all the toxic proteins. We hypothesized that higher levels of sleep apnea would be present in AD patients. Our results indicated no significant differences between AD patients and controls but those few AD patients who desaturated during sleep experienced morning confusion. The findings imply that AD and sleep apnea are two separate conditions which may still interact in the aged.
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