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Sleep Apnea:
The Silent Killer
That Can Raise Your Death Risk 46 Percent

© 2018 Health Realizations, Inc. Update

 

Some 18 million adult Americans have some degree of sleep apnea, but most haven’t been diagnosed or received treatment, according to statistics from the National Sleep Foundation.

sleep

People with untreated sleep apnea may face serious sleep problems, including sleep deprivation, sleeplessness and fragmented sleep -- along with a 46 percent increased risk of death!

This is concerning when considering a recent study revealed that men between the ages of 40-70 with severe sleep apnea were at twice the risk of dying from a variety of health conditions as men without the disorder, in the same age bracket and in good health.  People experiencing mild forms of sleep apnea were not in the same risk category.

What Happens During Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most common forms of sleep apnea, occurs when breathing becomes very shallow or stops at intervals during sleeping hours, repeatedly interrupting the sleep cycle.

Apnea means cessation of breath that lasts for at least 10 seconds at a time. When someone has sleep apnea their upper airway collapses during sleep and in cases of severe sleep apnea the patient may experience up to 20 to 30 seconds of a blocked airway before waking up.  This cycle can repeat itself sometimes hundreds of time throughout the course of a night. When a sleep apnea episode occurs the diaphragm and chest muscles put forth extra effort in attempts to open the airway and breathing usually begins again with a either a loud gasp, snort or jerking movement of the body.

Who is Most Susceptible to Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea affects all ages and both sexes, but there a few specific factors that put people in a higher risk bracket.

  Physical Traits Tied to Risk Factors 

  • Possible genetic link -- If you are related to someone who has sleep apnea, chances are you are at a higher risk of developing the disorder

  • More prevalent in men than women

  • Higher risk among African-Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders than in Caucasians

  • Increases as you get older

  • Post-menopausal women

  • People with large or thick necks (17 inches or greater in a man, or 16 inches or greater in a woman)

  • People with a large overbite, recessed chin or small jaw

  • People with small airways in their noses, throats or mouths

  • Adults with enlarged uvulas -- the tissue flap that hangs down in the back of the throat, large tongue or soft palate

  • Babies and small children with swollen tonsils

Other lifestyle factors and health conditions that increase the risk include:

  • Obesity

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Heart Failure and Stroke

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol Use

Consequences of Sleep Apnea When Left Untreated

Research shows that most people living with sleep apnea have never been diagnosed or received any form of treatment. One of the biggest indicators of sleep apnea is chronic snoring. Other symptoms may include frequent periods of silence throughout your sleep cycle, choking or gasping during sleep, dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening, headaches in the morning, night sweats and intellectual impairment such as trouble concentrating, forgetfulness or irritability.

When sleep apnea continues without treatment a person can be afflicted with a variety of negative symptoms such as sleep deprivation, sleeplessness, fragmented sleep, depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory difficulties, and excessive daytime sleepiness to life-threatening conditions such as heart attack, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia.

Seven Natural Treatment Options

For mild cases of sleep apnea you can try the following seven self-help techniques:

  • Shed some pounds -- Overweight individuals who drop 10 percent of their body weight can reduce sleep apnea episodes and possibly cure it altogether.

  • Avoid use of alcohol and sleeping pills -- These cause frequent awakenings during the night and make your airway more prone to collapse during apneic periods.

  • Use pillows that help you sleep on your side -- In some patients sleep apnea occurs when they are sleeping on their back, so using a pillow that promotes sleeping on your side may help.

  • Elevate the head of your bed 4-6 inches. This can alleviate snoring and make breathing easier.

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule -- Avoid sleep deprivation by putting your mind in a relaxed state one hour before going to bed to get a restful night’s sleep.

  • Try using a nasal dilator, breathe right strips or saline nasal spray -- These will help open your air passages and reduce snoring

  • Quit smoking -- This exacerbates the worsening of your airway passages.

Support a Healthy Sleep Schedule With the Sleep Amenities that Best Fit Work for You

If these techniques don’t work you’ll want to seek out your doctor for professional help. Before your visit it’s important to have the following information: a record of your sleep patterns, the fatigue levels you experience during the day, and an updated list of medications you take.

Conventional Treatment Options

If the natural tips above don’t help, your health care provider may recommend one of the following:

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): The treatment of choice for most people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP is a mask that goes over your nose and/or mouth. An air blower gently blows air into the airway to prevent the upper airway tissues from collapsing during apnea episodes.

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices: Dental or mandibular devices are used for patients diagnosed with mild forms of sleep apnea. The devices work by helping keep the airway open and preventing the tongue from blocking the airway.

  • Surgical Procedures: People with excessive or malformed tissue such as deviated septum or enlarged tonsils that obstruct the airway through the nose or throat might benefit from surgery. These procedures usually become the next step after the CPAP fails to correct the problem. 

The most important thing to remember is to seek help if you suspect have sleep apnea and be informed of the many non-invasive treatments that can help you prevent the many risks that untreated sleep apnea poses.


Sources

PLoS Medicine

Helpguide.org

WebMD

National Sleep Foundation


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