President Joe Biden began using a CPAP machine "in recent weeks" to treat the sleep apnea he has suffered from since at least 2008, ABC News reported Wednesday. This new detail about Biden's health, revealed after observers noticed an unusual indentation on his face, suggests the octogenarian president has put himself at increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
Biden has suffered from sleep apnea since at least 2008, when Politico reported that Biden "has suffered from atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat," which doctors said was probably "linked to Biden's reoccurring problem of sleep apnea." Dr. Joseph Krainin, M.D., a medical advisor at SleepApnea.org, told the Washington Free Beacon that Biden likely suffered from "a certain type of sleep apnea where his brain forgets to breathe during sleep."
There is no mention of sleep apnea in White House physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor's summary of the president's health following Biden's most recent physical in February. Biden's medical records from 2019 revealed that he had several surgeries on his sinus and nasal passage. But surgeries do not always cure patients' sleep apnea, and patients may still need to use a CPAP machine after undergoing an operation, according to Alberta Health Services.
Failing to treat his sleep apnea with a CPAP machine—for more than a decade—may have put Biden at increased risk for dementia, studies show.
That's because untreated sleep apnea leads to intermittent oxygen deprivation in the brain, causing certain brain cells to die. Those brain cells are among the same cells "that we know die in dementia," according to Australian neuroscientist Elizabeth Coulson. As a result, Coulson and her coauthors found in a recent study, untreated sleep apnea can lead to increased risk of dementia.
A 2022 study published in the National Library of Medicine came to a similar conclusion: "Sleep apnea is associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia, particularly for Alzheimer's disease," the study says. A third study, published in the American Academy of Neurology's medical journal in May, found that people "with sleep apnea who spend less time in deep sleep are more likely to have brain health problems that could lead to dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or a stroke."
The revelation will do little to ease concerns over Biden's age and mental fitness. A whopping 68 percent of U.S. voters say Biden is "too old for another term," according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll released in March. On Wednesday, hours before the White House confirmed Biden's use of a CPAP machine, Biden mistakenly told reporters that Russian president Vladimir Putin is "losing the war in Iraq," rather than Ukraine.
It wasn't the first time Biden has confused the two countries when discussing the Ukraine war. He also repeatedly referred to himself as a U.S. senator since becoming president in 2021. Biden was a senator when he voted to support the Iraq war in 2002.
Mistakes of this nature could be examples of "time-shifting," a common symptom of dementia. "Time-shifting is when a person's experience is that they are living at an earlier time in their life," the U.K.-based Alzheimer's Society writes on its website. "They may become disorientated and confused about time and place."
It's unclear how exactly Biden has treated his sleep apnea for the last 15 years. The White House did not return a request for comment on his history of using a CPAP machine or other sleep apnea treatments.