Over the last few years, the medical community has placed more focus on the physical problems linked to sleep apnea. Various studies have shown definite correlations between people suffering from the sleeping disorder and various medical conditions such as diabetes, increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, stroke and depression. A medical study from the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown a new problem linked to sleep apnea – dementia.
Understanding the Link
When people with sleep apnea choose to go without treatment (including CPAP machine therapy), their troubled breathing can lead to hypoxemia, or a decrease in the amount of oxygen found in the human blood supply.
According to Dr. W. McDowell Anderson, the director of the sleep medicine training course at University of South Florida, there has been a suspicion for years that cognitive problems could be linked to hypoxemia. This specific study was developed in such a way that the researchers were able to draw a conclusion that hypoxemia, caused by sleep apnea, can have a negative impact on cognitive function.
Premise of the Study
Dr. Kristine Yaffe from the University of California located in San Francisco, was in charge of the study. Scientists studied 298 women in their later years that showed no signs of any cognitive problems. Just over 100 of these women suffered from sleep apnea. These women were found to have a minimum of 15 episodes during their nightly sleep in which their breathing stopped long enough that the oxygen amounts in the blood dropped.
During the 5 year study, almost 45% of the women with sleep apnea showed signs of slight impairment of cognitive ability, also known as dementia. That is a contrast to the 31% of the women without any sleep problem that developed dementia. Based on the parameters of the study, the researchers could link the onset of cognitive problems to the cases of hypoxemia.
Treatment is Available
After the study was published, an editorial…