Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may put elderly people at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to new research.
According to the new study, biomarkers for amyloid beta, the plaque-building peptides associated with Alzheimer’s disease, increase over time in elderly adults with OSA in proportion to OSA severity. Thus, individuals with more apneas per hour had greater accumulation of brain amyloid over time.
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that afflicts approximately five million older Americans. OSA is even more common, afflicting from 30 to 80 percent of the elderly, depending on how OSA is defined.
“Several studies have suggested that sleep disturbances might contribute to amyloid deposits and accelerate cognitive decline in those at risk for AD,” said Ricardo S. Osorio, MD, senior study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine.
“However, so far it has been challenging to verify causality for these associations because OSA and AD share risk factors and commonly coexist.”
He added that the purpose of this study was to investigate the associations between OSA severity and changes in Alzheimer’s biomarkers longitudinally, specifically whether amyloid deposits increase over time in healthy elderly participants with OSA.
“Results from this study, and the growing literature suggesting that OSA, cognitive decline and AD are related, may mean that age tips the known consequences of OSA from sleepiness, cardiovascular, and metabolic dysfunction to brain impairment,” Dr. Osorio said. “If this is the case, then the potential benefit of developing better screening tools to diagnose OSA in the elderly who are often asymptomatic is enormous.”
Blame Your Mental Blunders on Poor Sleep