Studies show that sleep disorders increase with age. More than 50 percent of adults age 65 and older have some type of chronic sleep complaint. But sleeping disorders are not just for the elderly. A study published by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) showed the prevalence of sleep apnea in adult men of various ages:
• 3.2 percent prevalence in men 20-44 years old
• 11.3 percent prevalence in men 45-64 years old
• 18.1 percent prevalence in men 61-100 years old
More and more research is showing the unfavorable link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s.
The correlation between sleep apnea and dementia has been identified previously, but it was thought that age was the most common explanation, because the sleep breathing problems tend to strike older adults. But recent findings suggest that sleep-disordered breathing leads to a buildup of brain beta-amyloid, a key marker for Alzheimer’s.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there is mounting evidence that shows that people with sleep apnea are at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s. But it’s not just sleep apnea. Research also suggests that any type of sleep-disorder which affects your breathing may accelerate the progression to Alzheimer’s disease.
“[In earlier research] there was speculation that the gene that puts you at risk for Alzheimer’s might also put you at a higher risk for sleep-disordered breathing,” says Megan Hogan of Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill, the lead author on one of the new studies.
Reviewing the data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, Hogan and her colleagues found that sleep-disordered breathing leads to a buildup of brain beta-amyloid, one of the key markers for Alzheimer’s. The plaque, which was identified on a PET scan, “starts to build up before symptoms of dementia begin — and the greater the buildup, the greater the symptoms you will have of the disease,” Hogan says. Studying both cognitively normal individuals and those with mild cognitive decline, researchers found the same result: that beta-amyloid accumulated faster in subjects with sleep-disordered breathing than in a control group without it. Says Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer Association’s chief science officer: “Sleep apnea actually accelerated the movement into mild cognitive impairment diagnosis for individuals who had been cognitively healthy just a few years prior.”
While the news may be upsetting for those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or those who are holding off on getting diagnosed, it’s a great breakthrough for Alzheimer’s research. If this relationship is correct, it indicates that diagnosing and treating sleep apnea could slow the progression for those people in the early onset of the horrible but yet incurable disease.
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Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene, 208-966-4425.