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Dangers of Snoring and Sleep Apnea in Older Adults

Did you know that how you sleep may indicate if you have an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease? According to a new study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, older adults with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

What Is OSA?

A dangerous disorder, OSA is a mechanical problem that restricts air from entering your lungs while you sleep. As a result, you frequently stop breathing during the night. These pauses can happen as often as once or twice each minute, and usually last for 10 seconds or more.

Left untreated, OSA may increase your risk for several health issues, including diabetes, heart attack, obesity, high blood pressure, and—as researchers recently discovered—Alzheimer’s disease. Understand though, a diagnosis of OSA doesn’t imply that you’ll definitely develop these conditions.

Recognizing Your Risk

While OSA can happen to anyone at any age, there are certain factors that increase your risk:

  • Age: As you get older, you’re more likely to develop sleep apnea.

  • Race: Sleep apnea is most common among blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

  • Genetics: Family history plays a part in sleep apnea, as this condition can be inherited.

  • Lifestyle: Drinking alcohol, smoking, and being overweight or obese can all contribute to the development of sleep apnea.

Identifying Symptoms

To protect your brain, and overall health, it’s important to learn the various signs of OSA. While the most common indicator is loud or abnormal snoring, other symptoms can include:

  • Dry mouth, sore throat, or headaches in the morning after you wake up

  • Excessive tiredness during the day

  • Irritability

  • Depression

  • Gasping sounds after a pause in snoring

Living with OSA

Talk with your doctor about treatment options if you’re diagnosed with OSA. Your health care provider may suggest lifestyle changes or recommend mechanisms to help your airway stay open while you sleep. For example, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a machine with a mouth/nose mask that blows air into your throat as you sleep.

If you think you or someone you live with may have OSA, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Managing your symptoms not only improves your quality of sleep, it may also reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic health problems.



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