Sleep Care

Stroke and Sleep Apnea

A stroke occurs when a blood clot forms in either the arteries or other blood vessels and is carried to the brain. The blood clot blocks hardon sildenafil 100mg blood flow to cells in the brain and a lack of blood damages those cells. Often, a stroke doesn’t become apparent until the functions that the damaged brain cells control became impaired or lost as the cells themselves begin to die. Minor strokes can lead to problems such as weakness in an arm or leg. Major strokes, however, can lead to permanent paralysis or the loss of certain ability, such as speech. While most people can recover from

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a stroke, two-thirds do so with some form of a disability remaining. In the U.S., stroke is the third-leading cause of death, and about fifteen million strokes occur worldwide from year to year. While a third of strokes are fatal, the good news is that up to 80% of strokes are preventable. Since a key risk factor for stroke is obstructive sleep apnea, understanding the relationship between the two can lead to healthy prevention strategies or treatments. This is particularly important since a 2010 study has indicated that obstructive sleep apnea more than doubles the risk of stroke for men, and also significantly increases stroke risk for women with severe sleep apnea. How Sleep Apnea Affects the Brain Sleep apnea refers to a condition in which a person stops breathing during the night due to an airway obstruction that can be accompanied by a lack of breathing effort from the stomach and chest. With breathing stopped, the body’s oxygen levels start decreasing and a strain is placed on the cardiovascular system. Because of these changes, blood flow to the brain is periodically disrupted and blood pressure surges and drops abnormally. While the brain is normally able to regulate metabolism to ensure its needs for blood flow and oxygen are adequately met, the net result of these changes is that the brain is not able to control these functions appropriately. The lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain can lead to the cell death that is characteristic of stroke. This relationship suggests that individuals with sleep apnea are most likely to have a stroke when they are sleeping. A 2004 study examining obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and stroke found that of those diagnosed with OSA, more than half had their strokes occur during sleep. Treating Sleep Apnea The most common form of treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) support, which involves wearing a small mask over the nose (and occasionally mouth) that delivers air at a set pressure to help keep the airway open. Other lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, can be beneficial in reducing the risk for both sleep apnea and stroke. A physician can be helpful in reviewing a person’s medical history and family background to determine what treatments and changes will be most effective in preventing sleep apnea and stroke.

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