Almost every time I see or hear about a man or woman who suffered from a stroke, the first thing that comes to my mind is, did this person have sleep apnea? We have numerous studies that show that untreated obstructive sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for significantly increasing your risk for stroke (up to 3 times higher). A new study combined 29 different past studies that looked at people with stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack), and found that 72% of people had obstructive sleep apnea.
Knowing that up to 57% of men and 35% of women ages 30 to 70, and up to 81% in the elderly (above 65 years) have sleep apnea, this study's findings are not surprising. Untreated sleep apnea has been shown to cause systemic inflammation, thicker blood, slowing of blood flow and many other stroke-promoting factors. Furthermore, patients with sleep apnea are found to have significantly higher rates of brain lacunar infarcts, as well as diminished blood flow and brain neuron density in various critical areas of the brain, including parts that control memory, executive function, breathing and respiration, and autonomic function.
The real question is, does everyone over 60 (or even younger) need a sleep study to prevent strokes and heart attacks?