Can the Villian Sleep Apnea Cause Dementia?

There seems to be a large number of the aging population in this country who seem to be spending their “golden years” locked into the isolating condition of dementia.  I understand, there are more people living to a ripe old age.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every person who lived long enough to reach retirement and beyond could enjoy a productive and blissful years surrounded by loving families and friends.

Both of my parents are currently living in a care facility.  Dad will be 90 this summer and Mom is will be 85 shortly after.  They both suffer from dementia.  Mom’s dementia could be a product of her genetics and a severely damaged heart.  Dad’s could have been prevented.

Ever since I was a small child, I would watch Dad sleep on the couch.  He worked nights and he was always sleepy during the day. His sleep was punctuated by loud snoring.  Snoring wasn’t as disturbing as the long periods of not breathing accompanied by twitching feet and then a startling jerk of his body.  His sleep behaviors were so unpleasant that Mom had moved into her own bedroom.

By the time I had become an adult, I had heard of sleep apnea.  When I first started my care giving years, I would take Dad to his doctor’s appointments.  I would point out to the doctor how Dad would stop breathing, jerk, and startle to start breathing again.  The doctor didn’t pay any attention to my concerns and prescribed Prozac for him.  Hello…..did I say he was depressed?

As the years rolled by, Dad was hospitalized for a stroke.  The same doctor came into his room when I was there and said, “Didn’t you bring his CPAP machine?”  I told him he had never prescribed one.  During this particular hospital visit, the doctor behaved so badly, Mom pulled a perfect Donald Trump and said, “Your fired!” (this juicy story is found in my book, located on the home page).

After the doctor’s dismissal, Dad started seeing another doctor who sent him immediately to a sleep clinic.  Dad was diagnosed as having obstructed apnea.  In the sleep clinic, he stopped breathing 59 times an hour!  Poor Dad wasn’t getting any quality sleep.

It would have been a fairy tale ending if Dad could have used his CPAP machine and lived a long and enjoyable old age.  This wasn’t going to be the case.  He had already started developing dementia.  He had intense plaque building up in the capillaries of his brain.  As the plaque filled the capillaries, they would shut down the blood supply, and that portion of his brain would die….causing the dementia.

Dad has always been very involved in physical fitness.  He had made himself a goal when he retired at 65, he was going to walk 10,000 miles.  He had completed his goal before he turned 70.  He walked across Iowa on the abundant bike paths which we are so fortunate to have.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “why didn’t he use his CPAP machine?”  He would get up many times in the night to go to the bathroom.  He couldn’t remember to put it back on.  He, eventually, got to the place where he couldn’t remember how to put it on.  The damage was done.  There isn’t any going back.

He has a numerous strokes and several heart attacks.  His neurologist told him the apnea had caused his health issues.  Starving his brain for oxygen every night had ravaged his brain and damaged his heart.  She encouraged him to wear his mask at night for as long as he could.  Mom sleeping in another room made it impossible to force the issue.

It wasn’t my point to bore you with this story.  It was my intention to express my heart felt opinion.  If you suspect anyone in your family of having sleep apnea, get it taken care of immediately.  If someone you know is showing early signs of dementia, get them checked for sleep apnea.

Dad had a passion for physical fitness and exercise, Mom had a passion for nutrition.  This should have been the formula for a long, health, and productive old age. Sadly, it was stolen by something so treatable as sleep apnea.

I have included a link for further information about sleep apnea and its relationship to dementia.  Click here for the article.

Needing more information like this?  Click here!

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3 Responses to “Can the Villian Sleep Apnea Cause Dementia?”

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