Public Health

Elderly Women With Sleep Apnea at Higher Risk for Dementia

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Elderly women with sleep apnea had an 85% higher risk of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia than elderly women without sleep apnea according to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

They studied 298 women, roughly a third were diagnosed with sleep-disordered breathing. The average age of the women was 82. 

Five years after the study, investigators conducted cognitive function tests designed to detect brain health and cognitive impairment. They found that:

  • 45% of study participants with sleep apnea developed cognitive impairments, compared with 31% of women without sleep apnea.

Sixty percent of elderly people suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, which means addressing apnea may boost cognitive health.

You can do some things to prevent sleep apnea and some are rooted in the myriad of chronic conditions we suffer from already. Check with your doctor to see if the following would benefit you.

  • Watch your weight. Too much weight can restrict airflow.

    Watch the medications you take before going to bed. Muscle relaxers and sedatives will relax throat muscles and cause an obstruction of airflow. Drinking alcohol before bed is not good either. Cigarettes weaken and relax the muscles of your throat and should be avoided.
  • Elevate the head of your bed, or buy a pillow that will keep your head in an elevated position.

  •  Sleep on your side. Sleeping on your side puts less strain on your windpipe. It also helps to fight snoring, which accompanies sleep apnea.

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