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Sleep apnea tied to later dementia

Elderly women with nighttime gaps in breathing prone to cognitive problems

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5:01pm, August 9, 2011

Breathing irregularities that rob the brain of oxygen during sleep may imperil a person’s ability to think straight. A study of women 65 and older finds that those with seriously disordered breathing have an increased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia in subsequent years, researchers report in the Aug. 10 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Individuals with disordered breathing slow down or stop taking breaths  during sleep and often must gasp to catch up. The condition includes sleep apnea, an abnormal pattern that deprives the brain of oxygen and intermittently interrupts the deep sleep needed for satisfying rest.

Earlier, short-term studies linked disordered breathing to cognitive impairment, citing hypoxia, a lack of oxygen, as a culprit. But long-term data have been lacking.

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