Sleep apnea not only increases a person’s risk of suffering a stroke, but also can complicate recovery after a stroke, new research shows.
The findings, contained in new care guidelines released at a meeting of the Canadian Stroke Congress this week, suggest improvements to the diagnosis and screening of sleep apnea are critical to stroke prevention and rehabilitation.
"There are ways to prevent sleep apnea from occurring," said Dr. Brian Murray, an associate professor of neurology and sleep medicine at the University of Toronto. “Keep your body weight low as obesity is a major contributor to sleep apnea; avoid medications and substances that relax the airways and cause snoring, such as sedatives and alcohol; and sleeping on your side can minimize sleep disordered breathing."SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
Serious obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder where the flow of air to the brain pauses or decreases during sleep, strikes about 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women, according to a report on the new guidelines, "Canadian Best Practice Recommendations for Stroke Care." Less severe forms of the disorder also affect more than 10 percent of the population. Signs of sleep apnea include significant snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, and daytime fatigue.
According to the new research, 60 percent of stroke patients experience sleep apnea. The new recommendations call for more screening of stroke patients who say they experience snoring, fragmented sleep, or fatigue.
"The new recommendations take stroke care a step further" than past guidelines, said Dr. Michael Hill, Canadian Stroke Congress Co-Chair. "Stroke care is not only about giving the best possible treatment to patients. It is also about preventing new and recurrent strokes."