If you're prone to heavy snoring or sleep apnea, you could also be prone to something a lot more serious: memory and mild cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's, at a much earlier age. So say researchers out of New York University in the journal Neurology. They studied 2,470 people with an average age of 73 and found that those with breathing disorders during sleep experienced some form of cognitive decline more than a decade before those without the breathing problems (at age 77 instead of age 90). "We need to increase the awareness that sleep disorders can increase the risk for cognitive impairment and possibly for Alzheimer's," the lead author tells the New York Times.
But all is not lost: Those who treated their breathing disorders with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, however, were able to delay mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's by roughly 10 years, the researchers report in a press release. "The age of onset of (mild cognitive impairment) for people whose breathing problems were treated was almost identical to that of people who did not have any breathing problems at all," says the author. "Given that so many older adults have sleep breathing problems, these results are exciting." (Snoring and sleep apnea are linked to these health problems, too.)