blood pressureAccording to a recent study carried out at New York University, people suffering from sleep apnea are likely to develop cognitive impairment, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, nearly 10 years earlier than those without the condition.

The extensive study, which tested 2,470 people between the ages of 55 to 90, discovered a clear link between sleep apnea and early onset of Alzheimer’s, and highlights the importance of getting tested as soon as possible if you believe that you may be suffering from disturbed sleep.

Accelerating Mental Decline

Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition, and it’s thought to affect over half the male population in the US at some point in their lives. It’s slightly less common in women, and is only thought to affect around a quarter of all females to some degree or another.

The condition limits the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, which is thought to cause cognitive deterioration to accelerate. In addition to this, disturbed sleep doesn’t allow the brain to rest or repair itself as it should, which can cause an accumulation of proteins around the nerve cells.

Lack of Proper Diagnosis

Alarmingly, most sufferers remain undiagnosed. However, remaining in the dark about your sleep apnea may be more damaging to your health than you might think. Dr Andrew Varga, co-author of the study, states that the findings demonstrate that ‘sleep apnea may be contributing in some way to the acceleration of cognitive decline as you age.’ He adds: ‘That is potentially another good reason to get evaluated and treated.’

Sleep apnea is treatable. However, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are not. Dr Alon Avidan, a professor of neurology at the University of California suggests that these medical findings should be put to good use. ‘The message,’ he states, ‘has to be loud and clear to family practitioners, primary care physicians and ob-gyns that sleep apnea should be screened for.’

Getting Tested for Sleep Apnea

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it’s important to take action sooner rather than later. To arrange to speak to a sleep specialist or arrange to be tested, simply get in touch with Blackstone Medical Services today.