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Risks of Sleep Apnea

Woman covering ears while husband snoresSleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which one’s breathing interrupts periodically throughout the night, preventing the rest of the body from getting the oxygen it needs to restore health and function at optimum levels.

Risk Factors

People of any age, including young children, can contract sleep apnea.
Men, obese and morbidly obese people, those over age forty and those with a family history of sleep apnea are at a higher risk for the disorder.

Other risk factors include having a small jaw bone, a large tongue, large tonsils, or a large neck (seventeen inches or more for men and sixteen inches or more for women). Allergies, sinus problems, and other conditions that obstruct nasal passages and airways are also linked to sleep apnea.

Potential Health Complications

If sleep apnea is not treated, it can lead to an increased risk of a bevy of other health problems. Aggravation of ADHD symptoms, diabetes, hypothyroidism, nocturnal angina, gastroesophageal reflux disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, and heart attacks are all linked to sleep apnea. Around fifty percent of people diagnosed with sleep apnea suffer from hypertension.

Certain complications tied to sleep apnea are due to stress hormones. Diminished sleep quality and frequent drops in your blood oxygen levels can release stress hormones, which in turn cause your heart rate to go up and contribute to heart failure.

Because the person with the disorder does not sleep properly at night, they are subject to excessive daytime sleepiness (or EDS). EDS, in turn, leads to headaches, depression, reduced performance in daily activities, academic underachievement in kids and teenagers, and automotive crashes.

Links between Sleep Apnea, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity

Multiple studies have demonstrated a link between sleep apnea and conditions like strokes, type two diabetes, heart attacks, and lower life expectancy. This connection is because people with sleep apnea are frequently obese. Obesity causes the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart attacks to rise. Obesity is responsible for both sleep apnea and cardiovascular, and insulin issues most of the time.

Take note, however, that not everyone who has sleep apnea is obese and not everyone who is obese has sleep apnea. Studies also suggest that sleep apnea and diabetes are directly related. Sleep apnea can cause blood sugar levels to rise, thus leading to diabetes, and this can happen independently of obesity.

It is crucial for people who are obese or morbidly obese to lose weight. Doing so will allow us to treat their sleep apnea more effectively. In particular, those who gain fat in the upper part of the stomach, the tongue and the neck are more vulnerable to developing sleep apnea. The added weight in those areas pushes against the lungs and shrinks the diameter of the throat, causing the airway to collapse during sleep.

Polysomnography (that is, a sleep apnea test), can effectively diagnose whether you have this critical condition. These tests are conducted overnight, either in your home or at our office. The treatments we prescribe following the tests, including controlling risk factors such as obesity, using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) breathing masks or oral devices, are highly effective in treating sleep apnea.

For more information, please contact our office at (425) 688-1345.

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