You probably know all about the dangers of sleep apnoea — a disorder characterized by excessive snoring that causes you to stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. Usually, this is a warning for potential risk of diabetes or heart disease. And obviously, both of these risks are reason enough to get your apnoea diagnosed and treated fast.
But there’s another disease with strong connections to sleep apnoea… and this recently uncovered link is every bit as terrifying. So if you haven’t taken your snoring seriously yet, I hope this news will finally do the trick.
A recent study evaluated 208 older participants (ages ranged between 55 and 90) with normal cognition for undiagnosed sleep apnoea. None of the subjects were depressed, or had any other conditions that could negatively affect cognition.
Researchers also looked at spinal fluid samples and PET scan results to measure amyloid biomarkers in the subjects’ brains.
Results showed that nearly 37 per cent of the subjects had mild sleep apnoea without realizing it — while nearly 17 per cent had severe undiagnosed sleep apnoea. Of the total study pool, researchers followed 104 subjects for two years. And they found a direct correlation between severity of sleep apnoea and amyloid increases in the brain.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the alarming link between sleep apnoea and Alzheimer’s risk. I’m willing to predict that it won’t be the last, either. And ultimately, that’s a good thing, as sleep apnoea is both common and woefully underdiagnosed — among elderly patients in particular, as this study shows.
Estimates suggest that a whopping 30 to 80 per cent of elderly patients suffer from it. And given the clear link between apnoea and amyloid, there’s reason to believe that seeking treatment — whether it’s a CPAP machine or just good old-fashioned weight loss — might at least help to delay Alzheimer’s onset.
And I think it’s safe to say that we need all the help in this fight we can get.
Of course, addressing sleep apnoea is just one weapon in the ongoing battle against Alzheimer’s disease.To your good health,
Fred Pescatore, M.D.
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