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Sleep apnea may lead to dementia

Posted On Thu, August 11, 2011

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and California Pacific Medical Center have found that sleep apnea could lead to cognitive impairment and even dementia.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined elderly women with sleep apnea and other disorders that affected nighttime breathing. It found that those with sleep-breathing disorders were much more likely than those with normal sleeping habits to develop issues within five years.

"The extent of information has been limited before, because the studies were based on people with advanced dementia, who, surprise, surprise, had sleep problems," said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at UCSF. "It's been hard to tell what's the chicken and what's the egg. This study isn't proof-positive, but it's much stronger than earlier studies. What we're seeing is a nearly twofold increase of having cognitive problems five years later."

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute reports that sleep apnea is a common disorder in which people experience one or more pauses in breathing, or shallow breath, while sleeping. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of daytime drowsiness. Most cases of sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery or breathing devices. Treatments for sleep apnea are often covered under health insurance rates

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