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Father Daughter Team Cite Evidence Linking Sleep Apnea and Dementia

February 12, 2017
Dr. Karin Johnson

Neurologist Dr. Karin Johnson and her sleep specialist father, Dr. Douglas Johnson published an invited editorial in  the January 5, 2017 issue of Sleep Medicine supporting research in the overlap of obstructive sleep apnea with other medical and neurological disorders including strokes, headaches and dementia.

"Cognitive dysfunction: Another reason to treat obstructive sleep apnea in stroke patients," highlights the growing evidence that obstructive sleep apnea not only affects memory and concentration, but can promote neurodegeneration and increase the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Treating sleep apnea, especially in high risk groups like stroke patients, can help with patients' recovery and improve their quality of life.

Dr. Karin Johnson is also studying a novel scoring method for patients with mild sleep apnea, for which she was awarded a Baystate Research Pilot Award Program Grant of $50,000 per year for two years.

Dr. Johnson's research is looking for sleep study features that are more predictive of improvement with treatment than the current apnea/hypopnea index. Despite the fact that treatment can lead to significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life, many patients are underdiagnosed and undertreated for sleep apnea, especially women with atypical symptoms and complaints like cognitive issues or headaches.

Karin Johnson, MD is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School-Baystate and Medical Director of Baystate Sleep Center and Regional Sleep Program. Douglas Johnson, MD is a pulmonologist and sleep specialist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.