Obstructive Sleep Apnea Severity Affects Amyloid Burden in Cognitively Normal Elderly. A Longitudinal Study

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Recent evidence suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be a risk factor for developing mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. However, how sleep apnea affects longitudinal risk for Alzheimer's disease is less well understood.


To test the hypothesis that there is an association between severity of OSA and longitudinal increase in amyloid burden in cognitively normal elderly.


Data were derived from a 2-year prospective longitudinal study that sampled community-dwelling healthy cognitively normal elderly. Subjects were healthy volunteers between the ages of 55 and 90, were nondepressed, and had a consensus clinical diagnosis of cognitively normal. Cerebrospinal fluid amyloid β was measured using ELISA. Subjects received Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography scans following standardized procedures. Monitoring of OSA was completed using a home sleep recording device.

Measurements and Main Results:

We found that severity of OSA indices (AHIall [F1,88 = 4.26; P < 0.05] and AHI4% [F1,87 = 4.36; P < 0.05]) were associated with annual rate of change of cerebrospinal fluid amyloid β42 using linear regression after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, and apolipoprotein E4 status. AHIall and AHI4% were not associated with increases in ADPiB-mask (Alzheimer's disease vulnerable regions of interest Pittsburg compound B positron emission tomography mask) most likely because of the small sample size, although there was a trend for AHIall (F1,28 = 2.96, P = 0.09; and F1,28 = 2.32, not significant, respectively).


In a sample of cognitively normal elderly, OSA was associated with markers of increased amyloid burden over the 2-year follow-up. Sleep fragmentation and/or intermittent hypoxia from OSA are likely candidate mechanisms. If confirmed, clinical interventions for OSA may be useful in preventing amyloid build-up in cognitively normal elderly.

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