Air going through a narrow opening can make beautiful music in a concert hall, but when it goes through a narrow opening at the back of the throat, it produces the opposite of music: snoring. And if that snoring is loud, intermittent and accompanied by gurgling or gasping, it’s likely that you have sleep apnea. People with this disorder stop breathing while they’re asleep, usually because of an airway obstruction, wake up, then fall back asleep, sometimes hundreds of times each night.
Here’s what you need to know about sleep apnea.
1. Weight gain is a major cause of sleep apnea. While being overweight is not the only cause of sleep apnea, it’s one of the main reasons why people develop this disorder, says Dr. Harvey Moldofsky, a sleep specialist at the Centre for Sleep and Chronobiology in Toronto. (Tip: If your neck circumference is 16 inches or larger [17 for men], you’re in the sleep apnea range.)
When people gain weight, fat accumulates in the neck, narrowing the opening through which air passes. With age, “everything gets a bit more floppy,” says Moldofsky, to the point where the muscles of the throat and tongue relax too much when you fall asleep. “The opening can get so narrow that everything sort of collapses and you start to choke,” he says.
Sleep apnea tends to run in families, the result of an inherited body shape, says Moldofsky; for example, a recessed jaw, a small jaw and a large tongue are inherited anatomical factors that contribute to sleep apnea. As well, some medications, including some antidepressants, may raise risks for the disorder because they make people hungry and cause them to eat more and gain weight.
2. Falling asleep at the wheel could be a tip-off that you have sleep apnea. Excessive daytime sleepiness is common among people with sleep apnea, so if people honk at you when you drive, or if you drift from your lane of traffic, you may want to talk to your doctor. Other signs of the disorder include having problems with memory or concentration, making more than the occasional mistake and feeling grumpy and tired all the time.
Page 1 of 2 3. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the gold-standard treatment for sleep apnea. Getting people with sleep apnea to lose excess weight often doesn’t work, partly because tired people tend to snack to try to relieve fatigue, and sleep deprivation itself can cause hormonal changes that may affect appetite, says Moldofsky.
Many people turn to CPAP, which involves placing a soft gel mask over the nose and continuously pumping air into the mask to keep the airway from collapsing. “Yes, the mask will make you look like Darth Vader,” says Moldofsky, but it allows people to breathe and stops them from waking up hundreds of times a night. “People say, ‘For the first time in years, I feel alert and can do all the things I haven’t been able to do. And my spouse loves it,’” says Moldofsky.
4. In some cases, another treatment is indicated. Alternatives to CPAP include the following options: • Mandibular advancement. This custom-fitted dental appliance is placed in the mouth to bring the jaw forward and widen the airway. The device can be helpful for people with mild sleep apnea and costs between $1,200 and $1,500.
• Uvulopalatopharynoplasty, the surgical removal of the uvula (the fleshy structure that hangs down at the back of the throat) and part of the palate. This surgery resolves sleep apnea in less than 50 per cent of cases. Drawbacks include postoperative pain and risk of infection. It’s worth considering for the small minority of patients who can’t tolerate CPAP or for whom a mandibular advancement isn’t feasible; for example, people with dentures.
Sleep apnea prevention The following steps may help prevent sleep apnea episodes: • Avoid alcohol, sedatives and antihistamines before bed. These relax the throat muscles and can exacerbate sleep apnea.
• Change sleeping position. If you get sleep apnea when on your back, try sewing a pocket in the middle of your pyjama top and put a tennis ball into it to keep you from rolling on your back.
• Quit smoking. Smoking irritates the throat lining, which causes swelling and narrows the opening.
Here's what to do to maximize your antioxidant intake.
1. Spice it up.
Both dried spices and fresh herbs tend to be extra potent with antioxidants. “Having a really liberal approach to herbs and spices in your cooking as opposed to a tiny sprinkle is really beneficial,” says registered dietitian Desiree Nielsen.
2. Go organic.
New research from Spain is suggesting that organic produce may have extra antioxidants. “Phytochemicals are a plant’s defence mechanism—kind of like its immune system,” says Nielsen. “So when you apply pesticides and herbicides to crops, the thinking is that the plant has less need to self-protect, so it downgrades those compounds.”
3. Eat whole foods.
You can have too much of a good thing, and when you take antioxidant supplements you run the risk they’ll aid oxidation rather than fight it. “It has a reverse effect if you take too much or take it out of the right context,” says Nielsen. “When you start isolating compounds from food, they often don’t behave in the way that you would expect.”
You don't need to gut the entire space—or your bank account—to give your kitchen a fresh new look. The smallest of changes (think hardware, paint and backsplash) can make a huge impact. These stunning spaces show you how.
1. Paint them pretty
Photography by Yves Lefebvre
Easy upgrade: Painting your cabinets is one o the easiest ways to update your kitchen. We love the crisp white and the rich navy of this traditional kitchen—a fresh twist on ever-popular black and white—but if you want a lighter look, pair grey lower cabinets with white uppers. It can cost a lot to have your cabinets professionally sprayed, but luckily this is a great DIY project. Just be sure to choose a durable paint that's designed for cabinetry, use a foam roller and a good-quality brush and follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying times. The ultimate secret to successfully painted cabinets? Thoroughly clean and sand all surfaces and apply a coat of primer before painting.
Why we love it: The colour options are endless: Go bold, go neutral or paint your upper and lower cabinets in coordinating hues.
2. Light it up
Photography by Bruno Petrozza. Design by Emilie Cerreti
Easy upgrade: Swap out old fixtures in favour of dramatic pendants, like these statement-making globes in a warm metallic finish. Great lighting is both practical and pretty, adding a jewellery-like finishing touch to an often utilitarian space. Standout options exist for just about every style, whether your kitchen is traditional, modern, glam or rustic—but don't be afraid to choose lighting that contrasts with your existing look. These sculptural pendants provide a glam counterpoint to the room's clean lines and neutral palette, making the overall look more special. A couple of rules to keep in mind: Hang pendants 30 to 36 inches above the countertop so they don't obstruct your view, and don't be afraid to play with scale. On its own, a fixture might be too small for a space, but in a pair or grouping, it has more visual impact. Also consider installing dimmer switches, which will allow you to adjust the light to suit a mood or an occasion.
Why we love it: Grouping two or three pendants over your island is a budget-friendly way to freshen up the look of your kitchen without having to completely overhaul the space. (And who doesn't need extra task lighting for meal prep?)
3. On display
Photography by Janis Nicolay. Design by Riesco & Lapres Interior Design Inc.
Easy upgrade: Add open shelving. Ditching traditional uppers gives your kitchen a sense of space, but you can get a similar effect on a smaller scale—without having to stash your cereal boxes and everyday dishes in plain sight. Instead, create a designated space for display, as in this condo kitchen by the design team from Vancouver's Riesco & Lapres Interior Design Inc. In a little nook above the sink, art adds personality, while brightly coloured ceramics lend a cheery touch. If an open shelf feels too exposed, replace some cabinet doors with frosted-glass fronts. It's an inexpensive move that still allows you to achieve an airy quality.
Why we love it: Open shelving breaks up a wall of cabinetry and makes a clever alternative to a window, which most condo kitchens lack. Instead of a view of the outdoors, styled shelves provide the visual interest.
4. Pattern play
Photography by Ashley Capp. Design by Trish Johnston
Easy upgrade: Give your kitchen instant personality with bold wallpaper. This swirling green motif adds colour and interest without overpowering the room's clean lines and bright white colour scheme. When selecting a style for your kitchen, there are no rules: Go ahead and experiment with scale and colour. If you're worried about food splashes wreaking havoc on your walls, cover the wallpapered area with Plexiglas, available at specialty stores, like Toronto's Plastic World, where you can even have it cut to size. (But if you're covering an area of the wall that's exposed to heat, opt for glass instead.) The Plexiglas can be secured with an adhesive purchased from your local home-improvement store.
Why we love it: It gives your space a customized look—especially if you splurge on really great wallpaper—and, as long as you do your own installation, it's easy on the wallet.
5. Work it
Photography by Brandon Barre. Design by Jane Lockhart
Easy upgrade: Adding a simple workstation is a great way to increase you kitchen's functionality. "It's a place to manage the household and to keep things organized," says designer Jane Lockhart. "It doesn't have to be large—this one is only three feet wide." Base cabinets installed at table height, a durable work surface and a stylish desk chair are all you need to create your own kitchen command centre. If a built-in option is out of reach, repurpose a desk from another room in the house by painting it to match the cabinets and pairing it with one of your existing kitchen chairs.
Why we love it: You don't have to renovate to fit a desk into your existing floor plan.
6. Bring on the bling
Photography by Stacey Brandford. Design by Stacy Begg
Easy upgrade: Designer and former Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg recently refreshed her kitchen to make it larger, brighter and more family-friendly. To add sophistication to the space without spending a lot of money, she dressed up Ikea cabinets with chic golden pulls. "When it comes to kitchen hardware, always think of the overall look you're going for," says Begg. "I was working with warm metals—brass and gold gilt—but I didn't want it to look too traditional. I chose slim gold-tone pulls to keep things modern."
Why we love it: The pulls can easily be swapped out for new ones when you are ready for a different look.
7. Floors to adore
Photography by Wing Ta/Domino. Design by Kate Arends
Easy upgrade: Install statement-making patterned floor tiles. That's what homeowners Kate Arends and Joe Peters did in their Minnesota kitchen. Originally, the couple's floor was hardwood, but these graphic tiles, priced at $9 each, gave new life to the space and didn't cost a fortune. In an open-plan home, they also help delineate zones and, thanks to the hard-wearing nature of tile, spills and stains are a nonissue.
Why we love it: Beautifully patterned tiles are totally on-trend!
8. Fantasy island
Photography by Donna Griffith. Design by Greta Podleski
Easy upgrade: Bestselling cookbook author and former TV host Greta Podleski designed her kitchen island to look like a vintage sideboard. "I love the stylish view into the kitchen from the dining room," says Podleski. "And it provides a ton of functional storage." If a custom island isn't in the budget, create one from a vintage dining table or dresser. Just add a durable top, like marble or butcher block, and install castors to raise the top to counter height.
Why we love it: A sideboard-style option pairs the functionality of a storage-heavy kitchen island with the chic look of furniture.
9. Make a splash
Photography by Stacey Brandford. Design by Janine Love
Easy upgrade: This kitchen, designed for Jillian Harris, features a gorgeous mosaic backsplash made of honeycomb- shaped marble tiles. Spanning the entire height of one wall, it adds a subtle pattern to the space. Combined with a neutral colour palette and industrial accents, like the range hood, the space has a cool, modern bistro vibe. A word of warning: Choose the shape, the finish and the colour of tiles carefully. You'll want to live with your backsplash for years to come, so don't select a style that's too bold or trendy.
Why we love it: Replacing a backsplash is a budget-friendly update you can tackle on your own.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.
Want to make
perfect, crispy bacon every time with little mess? Try cooking it in the
oven! I always use this method when I am cooking bacon for more than 2 people. It is
less messy than cooking on the stovetop, you can cook a whole package at a time with no grease spattering everywhere. It requires
little attention, which gives you time to prepare the other elements of the meal (
pancakes perhaps?). Also, the bacon comes out
perfectly cooked (and flat) and delicious every time.
To cook bacon in the oven, first line a
baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Arrange bacon slices on parchment,
overlapping if desired.
(Side note: the bacon will cook a little faster and require no separating if the slices are not overlapping, but one Chef I worked for instructed me to overlap the slices with the meatier side on the bottom so that the fattier side covers the meat and "protects it" during cooking - not sure if this is true, but you can fit more on a tray if the slices are overlapping.) Cook in a 400°F (200°C) oven for
about 20 minutes, separating with tongs if needed, until bacon is golden-brown. Timing will depend on the thickness of your bacon and how crispy you like it.
Remove bacon to paper-lined platter to drain. Enjoy your perfectly cooked bacon in these recipes...
Bacon and Onion Cheese BallsChard and Apple Salad with Bacon VinaigrettePhotography by Leah Kuhne