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Researcher Awarded NIH Grant to Study Impact of Sleep Apnea on Alzheimer’s Disease in Hispanics

A University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researcher is embarking on a five-year study to better understand the impact of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in Hispanic adults.

“Hispanics have up to a fourfold risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-Hispanic whites, and sleep disorders like OSA may play an important role,” said Alberto Ramos, M.D., M.S.P.H., associate professor of neurology, and research director of the Sleep Disorders Program. “Compared with U.S non-Hispanic whites, neurocognitive decline occurs earlier in Hispanics, and is often accompanied by hypertension and cerebrovascular disease.”

Dr. Ramos was recently awarded a five-year $13 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, to study “Sleep in Neurocognitive Aging and Alzheimer’s Research.”

In keeping with the NIA Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, Dr. Ramos will focus on two risk factors never studied in Hispanics: obstructive sleep apnea and non-dipping of blood pressure (NDBP) in individuals whose blood pressure remains high during sleep.

Hispanics also have higher rates of sleep apnea

“Over the last decade, OSA has been shown to increase mortality, stroke, and vascular disease along with a 26 percent increase in cognitive decline,” said Dr. Ramos. He noted that the incidence of OSA appears to be higher in Hispanics than non-Hispanic Whites.

Dr. Ramos’ newly funded research builds on his previous research linking sleep disorders to Alzheimer’s disease among Hispanics, including a recent study that found a link between poor sleep patterns and cognitive declines in middle-aged Hispanic adults.

As principal investigator of the NIH grant, Dr. Ramos will draw on data from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, a database of more than 16,000 individuals. He also plans to enroll 3,000 participants in the study, who will wear monitoring devices that gather data on sleep disorders and nighttime blood pressure from their homes.

Dr. Ramos added that a Lancet Commission report indicated that up to 40 percent of dementia cases could be reduced by lowering risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity.

“Hopefully, this new study will lead to new strategies to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in Hispanics and other vulnerable groups,” he said.

Tags: Alzheimer's disease, Dr. Alberto Ramos, hispanic health, neurology, obstructive sleep apnea, Sleep Disorders Program