Dementia can affect anyone and currently has no known cure. However, some habits can help reduce the chances of developing cognitive decline later in life. In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining social bonds, there is another way to preserve your cognitive health with a simple lifestyle change. Read on to find out what it is, as well as the other great benefit it has for your health.
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A large body of research exploring the connection between sleep and cognitive health has established a link between sleep disorders and dementia. For example, a 2021 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which looked at the health and sleep data of more than 8,000 people in Britain, found that people in their 50s and 60s who slept poorly were more at risk of later developing dementia. In fact, those who slept for six hours or less each night had a 30% higher risk than their peers who slept longer.
“The findings suggest that inadequate sleep duration could increase the risk of dementia and underscore the importance of good sleep habits,” the researchers wrote.
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Although many underlying conditions can cause poor sleep, sleep apnea is the culprit for an estimated 30 million Americans, a condition that causes periodic pauses in breathing during sleep. Individuals with mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can experience these pauses between five and fifteen times per hour, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, those with severe apnea can experience these pauses at an alarming rate of 30 times per hour. It’s a break every two minutes.
Each time, the body reacts with a stress response that can increase blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate. Over time, this can put a strain on your heart and lead to serious coronary complications, warns the health authority. By eliminating pauses in breathing, you can also eliminate the stress response and minimize the risk of complications.
Using a CPAP machine (short for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine) at night could make a difference in your sleep quality. These machines work by pumping humidified air through the nose and keeping the throat open with air pressure, making breathing breaks much less frequent.
But the benefits don’t stop there, doctors say. “Many studies show that regular use of CPAP reduces blood pressure and improves wakefulness during the day,” write Johns Hopkins Medicine experts. “People with sleep apnea who use CPAP also report improved quality of life. In some observational studies comparing people with sleep apnea who use CPAP versus those who don’t, CPAP users have a lower risk of stroke and heart attack, and they lower blood sugar, “they add.
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Although there is no cure for dementia, experts say that people with mild cognitive impairment who also suffer from sleep apnea may be able to slow the progression of dementia with the help of CPAP machines.
A 2022 study published in American Journal of Respiratory and Intensive Care Medicine found that among older adults with sleep apnea and mild cognitive impairment, apnea treatment may reduce the risk of a future diagnosis of dementia. In particular, using a CPAP machine at night can help improve short-term memory.
A separate 2021 study by researchers at Michigan Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Center found similar results. After reviewing the Medicare claims of more than 50,000 seniors suffering from OSA, they learned that those who used CPAP machines were less likely to be diagnosed with dementia or mild cognitive impairment over a three-year period than those who did not use the machines. . “We found a significant association between the use of positive airway pressure and lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia over three years, suggesting that positive airway pressure may be protective against dementia risk in people. with OSA, “says the lead author Levi Dunietz angryPhD, MPH, assistant professor of neurology and sleep epidemiologist.
Talk to your doctor to find out if a CPAP machine is right for you and to discuss any symptoms you may have noticed that might suggest cognitive decline.
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