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Sleep Problems Increase Stroke Risk In Elderly

First Posted: Jan 15, 2016 05:35 PM EST
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We all know that sleep is incredibly important for our health and overall well-being, but did you know that too little sleep can increase strong risk-particularly among seniors?

New findings published in the journal Stroke found that fragmented sleep--otherwise known as rest in which an individual is repeatedly awakened--can deprive the brain of oxygen, increasing the risk of stroke.

"The forms of brain injury that we observed are important because they may not only contribute to the risk of stroke but also to chronic progressive cognitive and motor impairment," said Dr. Andrew Lim, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Toronto, in a news release.

During the study, researchers autopsied the brains of 315 people around age 90 whose sleep had been monitored for at least one full week around-the-clock for quality, as well as to determine circadian rhythms.

Findings revealed that 61 percent of individuals' brains in the study showed moderate to severe signs of blood vessel damage. Another 29 percent showed signs of stroke.

Furthermore, participants with greater sleep fragmentation were 27 percent more likely to have severe arteriosclerosis--otherwise known as a build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on artery walls.

However, researchers caution that the study results cannot determine if sleep problems cause brain damage or if brain damage causes sleep problems, etc.

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