Nearly 6.2 million Americans 65 and older currently live with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also projected that this number will grow to 12.7 million by 2050 without a medical breakthrough to prevent, slow, or cure the disease. However, With one in nine seniors developing Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it’s more important than ever to do whatever possible to prevent the disease.

A recent study found that treating sleep apnea may reduce the risk for dementia. 

elderly man sleeping peacefully in bed

Dementia Risk Factors

There are several factors that can increase your risk for dementia. These include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Head injury
  • Midlife obesity
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Diabetes
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • High homocysteine levels
  • Genetics

Unfortunately, some of these factors are out of one’s control. On the flip side, we can take preventive measures to avoid risk factors that are in our control. For instance, someone can eat healthily and exercise regularly throughout their entire life to prevent weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. By taking measures, they are also reducing their risk of dementia. One of the risk factors that a lot of people don’t take preventive measures for is sleep apnea.

The Correlation Between Sleep Apnea and Dementia

It’s estimated that 18 million people have sleep apnea in the United States and of these 18 million, 80% aren’t diagnosed. Sleep apnea can have a dramatic impact on the quality of sleep which is necessary to restore body and brain function. With constantly interrupted sleep, it’s not a surprise sleep apnea can increase the risk of dementia.

It’s relatively new information that there is a strong link between sleep apnea and dementia. A study from 2020 conducted by Monash University followed 35 individuals with untreated sleep apnea and 12 individuals who were asymptomatic for sleep disorders. The study evaluated the associations between the brain amyloid burden using a PET scan, sleep measurements, mood, and demographics. The study found that those with untreated sleep apnea had an increased level of brain amyloid which is known to increase the risk for stroke and dementia.

How Sleep Apnea Treatment May Reduce Dementia Risk

A new study evaluated people who received treatment for sleep apnea and how it reduced their risk for dementia. The study was conducted by researchers at Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Centers and evaluated over 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older who were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.  The study suggests that early diagnosis and long-term treatment for OSA can greatly reduce dementia risk.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The best way to get early treatment for sleep apnea and to prevent your risk for dementia is to know the symptoms to watch for. Here are some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. In short, pay attention to your awake symptoms and ask your sleep partner, or friends, and family if they notice any other symptoms.

  • Loud snoring
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Coughing or choking throughout the night
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Restlessness during sleep
  • Teeth clenching and grinding

If any of these symptoms apply to you, please contact us at Divine Smiles to book an appointment at (781) 396-8558.  During your appointment, we will guide you through the diagnosis and treatment process.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, getting a diagnosis is essential to receive treatment. As your dentist, we cannot diagnose you with sleep apnea, but we can help connect you with a home sleep testing service and physician to get a diagnosis. Typically, you will need to wear the home sleep testing device for two nights. Then, you will return the device where the collected data is then interpreted by a sleep physician. They can provide you with a diagnosis and recommend a treatment option.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Woburn, MA

The most common types of treatment for sleep apnea are CPAP and orthotic devices. CPAP isn’t well tolerated due to being uncomfortable and inconvenient. Additionally, long-term compliance is low. That is one reason why we recommend orthotic devices in Woburn at Divine Smiles. Orthotic devices work just as effectively for mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea as CPAP but they’re more comfortable and more convenient.

Orthotic devices rest in your mouth while you sleep similar to a mouthguard. They hold your airway open while you sleep to prevent your airway from becoming obstructed. With more comfort and convenience, orthotic devices have a higher long-term compliance rate and therefore a better chance at reducing your risk of dementia.

If you suspect you have sleep apnea or you’re looking for a CPAP alternative, please contact our Woburn dental office to book an appointment with Dr. Clancy to discuss whether orthotic devices are right for you. Call (781) 396-8558 today to get started. The sooner you get treatment, the more you reduce your chance of dementia.