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Treating common sleep disorder may help protect against dementia

A common sleep disorder called sleep apnea can pave the way for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Getting adequate treatment for the disease, however, can help protect against the development of these tragic diseases, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Medical of Michigan. This is based on data from more than 50,000 people.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which someone stops breathing repeatedly during the night due to the muscles in the throat relaxing and closing the airways. Depending on the severity of the condition, someone may stop breathing hundreds of times a night, resulting in exhaustion the next day.

Feeling tired is just a potential consequence of sleep apnea, however, and more serious problems, including heart problems, can occur. Various treatments for the disease are presented, including the use of a mouthpiece and weight loss. In some cases, however, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is prescribed.

This machine works by creating positive pressure in the airways, which prevents the patient’s throat muscles from preventing breathing and helps the user to get a good night’s sleep. The new study linked the use of CPAP therapy in cases of sleep apnea with reduced chances of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

This is based on an analysis of data from more than 50,000 adults aged 65 and over who received Medicare and suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. The study’s lead author, Galit Levi Dunietz, Ph.D., explained:

We found a significant association between positive airway pressure use and lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia over three years, suggesting that positive airway pressure may be protective against dementia risk in people with OSA.

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