Using a CPAP machine can reduce your risk of dementia

Dementia can affect anyone, and there is currently no known cure. However, certain habits can help reduce your risk of developing cognitive decline later in life. Besides maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining social connections, there is another way to maintain your cognitive health with a simple lifestyle change. Read on to find out what it is, as well as the other major benefit it has for your health.

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A large body of research exploring the link between sleep and cognitive health has linked sleep disorders and dementia. For example, a 2021 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which looked at health and sleep data from more than 8,000 people in Britain, found that people in their 50s and 60s who slept poorly were at increased risk of later developing dementia. . In fact, those who slept six hours or less each night had a 30% increased risk compared to their peers who slept longer.

“The results suggest that inadequate sleep duration may increase dementia risk and underscore the importance of good sleep habits,” the researchers wrote.

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man clutching chest with heart problem

Although many underlying conditions can cause poor sleep, for about 30 million Americans the culprit is sleep apnea, a condition that causes periodic pauses in breathing during sleep. People with mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may experience these breaks between five and fifteen times per hour, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, people 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 responds with a stress response that can increase your blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate. Over time, this can take a toll on your heart and lead to serious coronary complications, the health authority warns. By eliminating pauses in breathing, you can also eliminate the stress response and minimize your risk of complications.

middle aged white man wearing cpap mask for sleep apnea
Shutterstock/Brian Chase

Using a CPAP machine (short for continuous positive airway pressure machine) at night can make all the difference in the quality of your sleep. These machines work by pumping humidified air through the nose and keeping the throat open with air pressure, making pauses in breathing much less frequent.

But the benefits don’t stop there, doctors say. “Numerous studies show that regular use of CPAP reduces blood pressure and improves daytime wakefulness,” write the experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “People with sleep apnea who use CPAP also report improved quality of life. In some observational studies that compare people with sleep apnea who use CPAP to those who don’t, users of CPAP have a lower risk of stroke and heart attack and lower blood sugar,” they add.

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Senior female patient hands holding CPAP mask lying in hospital room, selective focus.  Therapy of obstructive sleep apnea.

Although there is no cure for dementia, experts say people with mild cognitive impairment who also have sleep apnea can slow the progression of dementia with the help of CPAP machines.

A 2022 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that in older people with sleep apnea and mild cognitive impairment, treating the apnea can reduce the risk of a future diagnosis of dementia. Specifically, 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 health insurance claims of more than 50,000 seniors with OSA, they learned that those who used CPAP devices were less likely to be diagnosed with dementia or mild cognitive impairment over a period of three years, compared to those who did not use the machines. . “We found a significant association between the use of positive airway pressure and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia over three years, suggesting that positive airway pressure may protect against the risk of dementia in people with OSA,” says the lead author. Galit Levi DunietzPhD, 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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