Waking up feeling younger

Michael HartOctavian Ioachimescu

Emory and the Atlanta VA Medical Center

Controlling insulin levels

Greatest Generation

Waking up feeling younger

Studies indicate that veterans are disproportionately affected by sleep apnea, which interrupts breathing anywhere from 10 seconds to a full minute during sleep.

In recent years, a surge in awareness of the disorder and its risks has caused a sharp rise in the number of veterans seeking help for sleep-related problems.

Since Emory’s Octavian Ioachimescu (above right) was recruited as director of the VAMC’s sleep disorders center almost four years ago, the number of veterans seen annually has tripled to more than 4,000. Every case is different, he says, but Everett Baker is about as typical as it gets.

In his 60s, Baker had gained 50 pounds since his slim, trim, Vietnam days and then a dozen pounds more after his family physician persuaded him to stop smoking. At first, Baker blamed his increasing fatigue, sleepiness, and hypertension on his weight. But his wife was convinced that it had something to do with the snoring that almost rattled her out of bed. She was terrified when he abruptly stopped breathing until she elbowed him to wake up.

Baker ended up in a sleep laboratory bed in Ioaochimescu’s clinic, hooked to a web of monitoring wires. The results confirmed that he stopped breathing for 15 to 20 seconds once or twice every minute. Once he was fitted with a face mask and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, Baker said he had the best sleep he’d had in more than 20 years. Over the next several weeks, he continued to feel better, his blood pressure went down, and his snoring stopped. With more energy, Baker started exercising more and lost 10 pounds. He said it was like waking up every morning to find himself another day younger.

Above left: Emory pulmonologist Michael Hart has discovered that some drugs currently used to treat type 2 diabetes reduce expression of enzymes involved in apnea. Hart is associate chief of service for all of Emory's research at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

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