A new US-based study has found that elderly people with sleep apnea problem start experiencing cognitive decline nearly 10 years earlier compared to those counterparts who are either without the disorder or using a breathing machine to treat their condition.
The researchers found that the elderly people, who had developed Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, with untreated obstructed sleep apnea experienced mental loss at an average age of 77 as compared to those without breathing problems, who suffered the same problem at an average age of 90.
Dr. Ricardo S. Osorio, study lead author from The Center for Brain Health at NYU School of Medicine, said, “We didn’t find that snoring causes dementia. We found that in those people that reported that they had sleep apnea, and were not treating it, the age of decline was earlier.”
Disordered breathing during sleep is one of the very common problems among the older people. It affects about 53 percent of men and over 26 percent of women, as per the reports. Sleep apnea can be identified by heavy snoring.
For the study, the researchers analysed the medical histories of nearly 2,500 people between age group 55 and 90. The study participants were those who were enrolled in a previous study on Alzheimer’s. The data were re-evaluated every six months. The study participants self-reported a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea or sleep apnea and also said about whether they used a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine during the nights.
According to the researchers, people who suffered Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment tended to first show symptoms of memory decline years earlier if they had untreated sleep-disordered breathing.
Both people with the disorder using a CPAP machine and people without sleep-disordered breathing all started to experience decline in their mental condition at the same age.
“Sleep apnea as we understand it, most people think that it only affects males that are obese and snore in middle age, but it is much more common in late life,” Osorio said.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Neurology.