April 24, 2019
Throughout the years, it has been well-established that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause or contribute to a number of serious health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular issues, mood disorders, and more. Recent research even indicates that OSA may lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s discuss the link between OSA and Alzheimer’s and how you may be able to protect your brain health through treatment for sleep apnea in Boca Raton.
OSA and the Brain Protein Tau
There are two different proteins in the brain that have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. One of those proteins, which is called tau, normally helps to stabilize brain cells. However, it becomes dangerous when it clumps together. Accumulations of tau form tangles in the brain that damage the surrounding cells and contribute to cognitive decline.
A recent study by the Mayo Clinic found a connection between increased levels of tau and OSA. In the study, 288 participants age 65 and older were asked if their partner experienced apneas (periods of not breathing) during sleep. The individuals who were observed to experience apneas had 4.5 percent higher levels of tau in their brain than those who did not experience nighttime breathing disruptions.
None of the study participants or their partners had dementia. However, tau accumulations are often a precursor of dementia.
Is It a Cause and Effect Relationship?
Scientists need to conduct further research before they can say if OSA actually causes the tau accumulations or if the correlation is due to other factors. The study by the Mayo Clinic was merely a preliminary look into the relationship between tau and OSA. The researchers did not conduct in-depth sleep studies on the participants to confirm a sleep apnea diagnosis. They also used a very small population sample to conduct the study. However, one of the researchers involved in the study did state, “Our research results raise the possibility that sleep apnea affects tau accumulation.”
What It Means for You
Whether or not OSA has a direct effect on tau accumulation in the brain, it is important that everyone makes efforts to get enough high-quality sleep. In fact, treating OSA may indirectly help you decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. For example, if you get enough sleep, you may have the mental and physical energy you need to engage in activities that promote brain health. You might be more likely to exercise regularly, which can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent. High-quality sleep can also help you curb junk food cravings, and a poor diet has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
Do you suffer from OSA? Getting treatment for your disorder may be one of the keys to protecting your long-term brain health.
About the Author
Dr. Kenneth Mogell is a general dentist in Boca Raton and a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. He has helped countless individuals find relief from OSA. If you would like to discover how he can help you achieve higher-quality rest, contact our team at 561-353-5252.
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