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Sleep Apnea: CPAP Therapy May Reduce Risk of Dementia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Galit Levi Dunietz  MPH, PhD Pronouns: she, her Assistant Professor University of Michigan, Medical School Department of Neurology, Division of Sleep Medicine School of Public Health Department of Nutritional Sciences Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5845

Dr. Dunietz

Galit Levi Dunietz  MPH, PhD
Assistant Professor

Tiffany Braley, MD, MS Clinical Associate Professor

Dr. Braley

Tiffany Braley, MD, MS
Associate Professor

University of Michigan, Medical School
Department of Neurology
Department of Nutritional Sciences
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5845

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Dementia is a public health crisis that affects more than 6 million Americans.  As no treatments to effectively reverse dementia are currently available, interest has shifted toward modifiable risk factors for dementia, which may offer a critical window for prevention or intervention.

Recent research suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common, yet undiagnosed, risk factor for cognition impairment in older adults. However, few studies have examined whether treatment of OSA with positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy could protect those with OSA against developing dementia, says principal investigator, Dr. Tiffany Braley, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Neurology from the University of Michigan.

To address this gap, Dr. Braley and Dr. Galit Levi Dunietz, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor and sleep epidemiologist, examined associations between PAP therapy use and 3-year incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or other forms of dementia (DNOS, “dementia not otherwise specified”).

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: In a large sample of Medicare beneficiaries with known OSA, we found that PAP treatment was associated with lower odds of incident diagnoses of AD (22%) and DNOS (31%), respectively, says lead author, Dr. Dunietz.  Lower odds of MCI (18%), approaching statistical significance, were also observed among PAP users. PAP adherence was associated with reduced odds (35%) of incident diagnoses of AD, she adds.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: These findings suggest that PAP therapy may reduce the risk of dementia among older adults who have OSA, says Dr. Dunietz. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: While these findings demonstrate a protective role for dementia, future research with longer follow-up intervals, more diverse populations, and analyses of relevant biomarkers that may influence the relationship between PAP use and dementia onset, are still needed to confirm these findings, suggests Dr. Braley.

Disclosures: Drs. Braley and Dunietz report funding from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation (award #115-SR-15, Braley


“Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment and Dementia Risk in Older Adults,” Sleep. DOI: 10.1093/sleep/zsab076

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Last Updated on April 16, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD