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DSM Researcher Links Sleep Apnea to Risk of Dementia

August 10, 2011

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Sleep Disordered Breathing is associated with and precedes a higher risk of cognitive impairment in older women. Co-author Susan Redline, MD, from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital said that even after adjusting for age, body mass index, education, diabetes, and baseline cognitive scores, indices of hypoxia, but not sleep fragmentation or duration, were associated with increased risk for mild cognitive impairment and dementia, suggesting that hypoxia is a likely mechanism through which SDB increases risk for cognitive impairment.

The study included nearly 300 women, average age 82, with no dementia at the onset of the study, who were monitored overnight by polysomnography. Five years later they were given cognitive function tests to assess brain health. Women with SDB at the onset of the study had 85 percent relative higher odds of developing cognitive impairments by the follow-up.

Dr. Redline suggested that the results of the study show that much larger studies with longer treatment periods and a more diverse population need to be done to show whether treating SDB may help prevent dementia in older women.

Related Links
Read the press release from Brigham and Women's Hospital
Read about this publication in Healthday
Watch a report on these findings at The Boston Channel

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