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Snore? Your Memory Could be At Risk
Do you snore at night? If you do, you may be at a higher risk for developing early-onset memory problems. Read more about this connection below.
A new study published in April 2015 in the Journal Neurology has found that sleep habits may be linked with memory loss.
The study found that individuals who snore heavily at night due to breathing problems may cause the snorer to develop memory loss and cognitive decline at younger ages. Researchers from the NYU Langone Medical Center report that as people age, they are more likely to snore and suffer from sleep apnea. Half of elderly men and about a quarter of elderly women suffer from sleep apnea or severe snoring.
The study examined the link between snoring and memory loss in the elderly. Read more about this study below.
The study researchers wanted to test if sleep-apnea or sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) was associated with an earlier age for mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia disorders.
The researchers examined nearly 2,500 men ranging in ages from 55 to 90. The men were divided into groups with no cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, or the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. All men who had snoring problems showed cognitive decline that started at a younger age than men who had no snoring problems.
The study researchers suggested that treating snoring problems could delay the progression of cognitive impairment. The study found that the men with sleep apnea were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment about 10 years earlier than people without sleep apnea. The study researchers theorized that poor sleep habits could prevent the brain from operating at maximum capacity, leading to earlier cognitive decline.
By improving sleep habits and eliminating snoring, the study researches suggested that it could significantly reduce the risk for developing early-onset cognitive decline or any form of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. What was even more encouraging was that the rate of early cognitive decline was slowed and almost completely eliminated when the person with snoring problems treated their sleep issues. Once the snoring was eliminated, the study participants had normal risk for cognitive decline.
If you or a loved one snores at night, or has other symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, it is not just annoying, but could pose a serious health risk. If you suspect a sleeping problem, get evaluated by a sleep professional to determine if you have sleep apnea or another sleeping disorder that is causing the snoring. For everyone else, the following at-home tricks can help prevent nighttime snoring:
Sleeping on your back promotes snoring. Simply by switching to a side sleeping position you can reduce your risk for snoring. When you sleep on your back, the tongue relaxes onto the back wall of the throat, resulting in snoring for many people. Side sleeping is one of the healthiest sleep positions.
In many cases, being overweight can contribute to snoring. Many people do not snore at all until they gain weight. Excess weight places pressure on the airway (or partially collapse it in extreme cases), which results in snoring. Not all weight loss will prevent snoring, but if you are overweight and snoring was not an issue when you weighed less, losing weight could help reduce your risk for snoring-related cognitive decline.
Some allergies can cause snoring. Common allergies that contribute to snoring include dust mites, dust, or pet dander. You can avoid allergy-related snoring by replacing pillows every six months, washing bedding and other cloth items every few weeks, and vacuum and dust the room often. If you have pets, keep them outside the bedroom. If you suspect allergies are contributing to your snoring habit, visit an allergist to determine if allergies could be to blame.
Smoking is a huge contributor to snoring. According to researchers, smoke-related snoring occurs because the airways are always inflamed and irritated. Prolonged smoking also damages the respiratory system. Smoking is an unhealthy habit that has more repercussions than lung cancer.
Alcohol and sleeping pills may increase your risk of snoring because they depress and relax the nervous system. This relaxes the muscles in the jaw and throat, which causes the tongue to relax and block the airway. This results in snoring. If your partner says you snore more often after drinking or after taking sleeping pills, avoid drinking right before bed or taking sleeping pills on a regular basis.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day three times a week is the minimum amount of exercise to maintain a healthy body, yet far too many people get even less exercise than that. According to research, regular exercise can help reduce the risk of snoring in two ways: First, exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, and second, regular exercise helps you maintain a consistent schedule. Irregular schedules are associated with a greater risk for snoring.
A healthy body requires a set wake/sleep time each day for the optimal circadian rhythm. Getting too tired at night from an inconsistent schedule can cause the throat to close up, which leads to snoring. A regular schedule could work to lower risk of snoring.
Congestion in the throat quickly causes snoring at night. If you struggle with chronic congestion, consider using a saline spray, humidifier, or breathing strips designed to open the airways and prevent snoring. Over-the-counter medication may also help for short-term congestion.
Sleeping in a flat position is more likely to result in snoring. Raising your head up a few inches could reduce your risk for snoring. Add another pillow to your bed, or slide a few flat boards under the top legs of your bed to slightly raise the level of your head.
Rinsing your mouth with a peppermint-flavored mouthwash could reduce your risk of snoring. Peppermint shrinks the lining of the nose and throat temporarily, which may prevent some snoring. You can also add peppermint oil to a glass of water or drink peppermint tea before bed.
Snoring increases the chance of early-onset cognitive decline, but it does not prevent all memory decline as you age. For that, you need to take a few extra steps to ensure your brain stays sharp over the years. Your brain is a delicate system that, when cared for, will serve you well for many years. Use the following natural methods to prevent memory loss as you age:
The right balance of vitamins and minerals are extremely important to prevent age-related cognitive decline. While you can get a lot of brain-boosting nutrients such as zinc, vitamin E, vitamin B12, calcium, and iodine from foods, you may find that supplements containing these ingredients are beneficial to ensure you get the right amount each day. In addition, Web MD has stated that a few additional herbal supplements may be effective in preventing some age-related memory decline. These supplements include:
Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is used in Europe to treat blood flow-related dementia. Studies suggest that the herb is able to reduce symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease once the disease is already present, in addition to protecting against the disease before symptoms appear.
Omega 3 Fats: Omega-3 fats stimulate the brain and provide brain-boosting nutrients. Some studies have found that foods containing omega-3 fats have a beneficial effect on memory. Ginseng: Ginseng helps prevent sluggish thinking and helps the brain feel more alert. In a few small studies, ginseng was shown to help improve symptoms of memory loss.
Huperzine A: This moss has similar effects to Alzheimer’s drugs. The moss works similarly to the drugs and has been shown in small studies to be as effective as traditional Alzheimer’s drugs in reducing symptoms of memory loss.
Acetyl-L-carnitine: This amino acid is essential for memory and brain health. A few studies have suggested that the acid can help prevent symptoms of memory loss and slow cognitive decline in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Diet can play a huge role in how sharp your memory is. You don’t have to have an extreme diet to benefit your brain, just follow basic healthy eating habits. Eat mostly vegetables, include high-quality proteins, avoid junk food and sweetened drinks, and avoid trans fats and vegetable oils as much as possible. These simple changes will make a big difference in your overall health.
Research from the University of British Columbia in 2014 found that regular exercise has a direct relationship on the memory. Individuals who exercised enough to get the heart pumping faster had a larger hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for learning and verbal memory. This suggests that regular exercise can help reduce a person’s risk for age-related cognitive decline.
Keeping the brain active is essential for preventing cognitive decline over the years. Mental tasks that are engaging and require critical thinking may be the most beneficial in warding off cognitive decline. A study from 2013 found that when seniors played mentally-engaging video games, such as real time strategy games requiring quick thinking and teamwork, their cognitive decline was slowed and even reversed in some cases. This indicates that keeping the brain engaged at all times is necessary to keep the brain sharp.
This new study indicates that snoring can be a predictor of early-onset cognitive decline and even the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive diseases. If you snore, take steps now to prevent snoring and improve your memory today. In addition to the elimination of snoring, regular exercise, wise supplement choices, a healthy diet, and mentally-stimulating activities will help keep your mind sharp as you age.
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