Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea Puts Older Adults in Long-Term Care at Risk, Warns Study
A new study has found that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and dementia in older adults. Yet, it remains underdiagnosed and undertreated in people aged 50 and above.
To highlight areas of inequity in OSA care, researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of 9,000 older participants in the 2016 Health and Retirement Study. The participants were all aged 50 years and older.
As per the researchers, most study participants (6,908) were identified with possible undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, while about 1,000 more were diagnosed but not receiving treatment.
Those with possible undiagnosed OSA were more likely to be uninsured, racial minorities, Hispanic, Latino, male, and have lower education and income levels than those diagnosed and treated.
According to study lead Christopher Kaufmann, Ph.D., from the University of Florida College of Medicine, these findings align with past research and highlight the problems related to access to preventative healthcare.
The researchers suggested that increasing access to healthcare, such as improving insurance coverage and transportation to clinics, may help identify those with undiagnosed OSA, especially in older populations.
Kaufmann pointed out the importance of public education efforts aimed at older adults, “We really need to increase public awareness of obstructive sleep apnea. We’re looking at a population that is really vulnerable to the ill effects of obstructive sleep apnea, and we have to do everything we can to make sure people are diagnosed and treated.”
“Long-term care facilities must implement screening and treating obstructive sleep apnea in older adults to mitigate associated health risks and improve their overall well-being,” – Saba Ansari, VP of Clinical Services.