With an estimated 5.8 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers are racing to find a cure for this terminal illness. While there is no one cause, however, finding a cure or preventing Alzheimer’s has proven difficult.
One cause we do know about is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder this is marked by episodes where the affected person stops and then restarts breathing throughout the night. Sleep apnea is becoming increasingly common in adults and children – most notably obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes obstructed while you sleep. As a result, treatments designed to prop the airway open have been developed to prevent this from occurring.
Common sleep apnea treatments include CPAP therapy (continuous positive airway pressure therapy) and the use of mandibular orthotics or “MAD’s.” While CPAP is a more common form of therapy, mandibular devices are growing in popularity due to their comfort level.
A recent study done on patients with obstructive sleep apnea has revealed that patients in the study who used CPAP therapy were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were not treated at all, however, the study did not measure data from those who use MAD’s. The problem with this is that while positive, many people do not use their CPAP therapy properly because the mask is uncomfortable and the machinery is difficult to operate and keep clean.
While we don’t know just yet if mandibular orthotics would have the same results as CPAP when it comes to reducing the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults, treating sleep apnea by any means necessary is of the utmost importance. That’s because, in addition to Alzheimer’s disease, sleep apnea has been found to contribute to, cause, or worsen serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, cognitive impairment, and even stroke.
If you are concerned about your Alzheimer’s risk, speak with your doctor. If you are interested in learning more about treating your sleep apnea with a mandibular device, please contact Dr. Mingus and schedule a consultation today.