Incident Sleep Disordered Breathing in Old Age


Donald L. Bliwise, Ian M. Colrain, Gary E. Swan, Nancy G. Bliwise, Incident Sleep Disordered Breathing in Old Age, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 65A, Issue 9, September 2010, Pages 997–1003,



Little is known about progression of and risk factors for sleep disordered breathing (SDB) in old age. We prospectively examined elderly volunteers to understand how changes in body weight are related to SDB for a period of 20–30 years.


Participants were 30 surviving members of a community-based cohort (mean entry age = 57.8) studied over a median follow-up of 23.4 years. SDB was quantified as the apnea–hypopnea index (AHI) via in-lab polysomnography from 215 nights, representing 733.3 person-years of follow-up. Weights were recorded in kilograms. We used linear regression to derive individual trajectories of AHI and weight regressed on time.


Individuals had relatively low AHI (X = 2.3 [SD = 3.5]) and body mass index (kg/m2X = 24.6 [SD = 4.6]) at entry. Rates of change in AHI were characterized by positive slopes and linear increases by least squares regression. Mean rate of change was +0.43 events per hour per year, a 3.3% yearly increase relative to the maximum AHI observed for each case. Within individuals, curve fitting indicated statistically significant AHI increases associated not only with increases, but also decreases, in weight.


Rates of increase in AHI were larger than for aging reported for other organ systems (eg, autonomic, musculoskeletal, and respiratory), possibly reflecting complex mechanistic determination of SDB in old age. Association between decreased weight and increased SDB with advancing years represents an important “proof of concept,” perhaps compatible with failure to maintain airway patency during sleep as a component of generalized muscle weakness in old age.

Keywords: Sleep disordered breathing,  Aging,  Body weight,  Longitudinal study

Topic: aging, body mass index procedure, autonomic nervous system, weight reduction, apnea, follow-up, laboratory, polysomnography, sleep apnea syndromes, sleep, survival, older adult, community, linear regression, fitting curve to data, generalized muscle weakness, airway patency, apnea-hypopnea index procedure, slow shallow breathing.

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