Keeping your brain power as you get older

As a physician, friends and family often consult me informally about the health of their parents.  At 53, I’ve lost both parents, and many friends are going through that process now.

However, even more painful sometimes is dealing with the mental and cognitive decline that accompany aging.  We know that obesity and metabolic syndrome in mid-life increases the chances of later cognitive decline.  Now we have new evidence that elderly women with sleep apnea are almost twice as likely to develop cognitive decline, or even dementia, compared to women without sleep apnea.  What the study doesn’t address is whether improvements in sleep apnea, either by treatment with CPAP or produced by weight loss, can forestall dementia.

Standard “first-line” treatment of sleep apnea is with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a breathing devise worn during sleep .

To eliminate snoring and prevent sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a device called a nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine delivers just enough air pressure to a mask to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing snoring and apnea.

I used to have sleep apnea and use CPAP, but no longer after losing 125 lbs.  Sleep apnea in more common in obese people.  We do know that CPAP therapy reduces heart attacks and strokes in sleep apnea.  Read here about sleep apnea and whether or not you or your husband may have sleep apnea (men are more likely than women to have it).

No matter what happens in the short term in Washington DC, I don’t expect my Medicare to look like my parents’.  I’m trying to invest in good habits today, so as to limit my pain, disability, poor quality-of-life, and earlier death when I get older.  I don’t want to be a burden to my family or society.


Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.

Comments are closed