A new study finds that sleep disordered breathing (SDB), which includes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), may increase the risk of mental decline in older women. The study involved 448 women with a mean age of 82.8 who underwent cognitive testing, polysomnography, and genetic analysis. The results show that women with SDB are more likely to show cognitive impairments. In addition, the results indicate that the association is even stronger in women with a gene called APOE e4, which is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease as well as SDB, according to the authors. Based on these findings, the authors note that cognitive impairment may be caused by chronically low blood oxygen levels in OSA patients, but point out that additional research is needed to establish the nature of the association. They recommend more aggressive SBD intervention in older women by clinicians in order to prevent cognitive decline.
“The significance of this finding is that SDB is treatable,” senior author Kristine Yaffe, MD, said in a prepared statement. “If we treat it effectively, we might be able to prevent cognitive impairment in some older adults. This is especially important for those with the APOE.

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