Sleep Apnea Raises Risk for Death
Sleep apnea is a common, chronic condition that affects about one in four men. If not treated, it can lead to excessive sleepiness, problems with daytime alertness, and an increased risk for car accidents. New research published in PLoS Medicine suggests much worse, though. Sleep apnea may also double the risk for premature death among middle-aged and elderly men.
To find out if sleep apnea is linked with an increased risk for death, researchers followed more than 6,400 men and women ages 40 years and older for about eight years on average.
Home monitoring of sleep patterns provided the research team almost 10,000 in-depth recordings of breathing patterns, heart rhythms, and brain activity during sleep.
Based on the recordings, about half of the patients had mild to severe sleep apnea. Over the course of the study, 587 men and 460 women died.
Severe sleep apnea occurs when blood oxygen levels dip below 90 percent of normal. The study found that having just 11 minutes of severe sleep apnea appeared to roughly double the risk for death among men.
But, even patients with moderate sleep apnea faced an increased risk for death, as much as 17 percent, compared with those who did not have sleep-related breathing problems.
Men between the ages of 40 and 70 with sleep apnea were particularly at risk for death from any cause, but especially from heart disease.
Sleep apnea was not linked with risk for death in women in this study.
The hallmarks of sleep apnea are loud snoring, pauses in breathing, and sleep disruption. But most people with the condition don't even know that they have it.
If you have these symptoms, talk with your doctor about sleep apnea. Treatment for the condition can improve symptoms and reduce risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Treatment may include mouthpieces, breathing devices, and surgery. Your doctor will help you decide which are best for you.
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You may be resting in bed when your leg muscles seize up with cramps, causing jolting pain. The soles of your feet also may cramp up.
Such nighttime leg cramps become more common with age. Experts aren't sure what causes these cramps. In many individuals, the underlying causes are unknown. But they sometimes can be triggered by prolonged sitting, muscle overexertion, or dehydration. Some medicines and health conditions-including diabetes, thyroid disease, and anemia-may lead to this problem, too.
Leg cramps can last just a few seconds or several minutes. If you have a cramp, try stretching the affected muscle. For example, you can stretch your calf muscle by curling your toes upward, toward your knee. A warm bath also may help.
What can you do to prevent cramps? Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. At bedtime, avoid tucking blankets in at the bottom of the bed, so your toes don't turn downward.
If your cramps are chronic or severe, talk with your doctor, who may recommend medicine.