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Elderly Sleep Apnea Sufferers May Live Longer E-mail
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New research results suggest that sleep apnea - which has often been linked to increased rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality - may actually contribute to higher survival rates in the elderly. The findings by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers were presented last week at the European Sleep Research Society Congress in Glasgow, Scotland.

Led by Prof. Peretz Lavie of the Faculty of Medicine, the study was conducted over a 4.5-year period, with researchers comparing mortality rates among elderly subjects diagnosed with sleep apnea to those of the elderly in the general population. Results were divided by to age, sex, and ethnic origin.

When mortality rates of 611 elderly patients with "light or no" sleep apnea, "moderate" sleep apnea, and "severe" sleep apnea were compared with the general population, those suffering from moderate sleep apnea had a mortality rate one-third of that of the general population. And mortality rates for the elderly with no sleep apnea, light sleep apnea and severe sleep apnea were on par with those of the general populace.

"These findings, when combined with new findings in scientific literature of the adaptive influences of intermittent hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in various clinical models, strengthens our hypothesis that sleep apnea activates defense mechanisms among the elderly that provide them with survival advantage," said Lavie.

Although sleep apnea is more prevalent among the elderly than among the young and middle-aged, the medical implications among the elderly are still not well known.

Affecting 10 percent of men and five percent of women, sleep apnea has been found to constitute a significant risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The findings from many studies - including some conducted at the Technion - show patients with sleep apnea are at a higher risk for mortality, particularly if they are overweight.

The research was conducted in the Lloyd Rigler Laboratory for Sleep Apnea Research at the Technion Faculty of Medicine.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university. Home to the country's winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with 22 offices around the country.

About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. These breathing pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. These breathing pauses often occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour.  Typically for people inflicted with sleep apnea , normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can't detect the condition during routine office visits. Also, there are no blood tests for the condition. Most people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member and/or bed partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep 3 or more nights each week. You often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when your breathing pauses or becomes shallow.

This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Untreated sleep apnea can:

  • Increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity
  • Increase the risk for or worsen heart failure
  • Make irregular heartbeats more likely
  • Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents

Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery, and/or breathing devices can successfully treat sleep apnea in many people.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This most often means that the airway has collapsed or is blocked during sleep. The blockage may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses. When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea happens more often in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea. It happens when the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn't send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. You make no effort to breathe for brief periods. Central sleep apnea often occurs with obstructive sleep apnea, but it can occur alone. Snoring doesn't typically happen with central sleep apnea.

 

 

 
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