Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (apnea means “without breath” in Greek) happens when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep, blocking off the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea [OSA] is a disorder where you actually stop breathing at least 30 times an hour while you are sleeping. This means that your sleep becomes very fragmented. It’s
not restful or restorative.

One of the biggest clues to whether you have OSA is if you are consistently sleepy during the day (hypersomnia) or if you snore. Risk factors include being a man, being overweight (although thin people have it too) and being 40 or older, but anyone
can get it, at any age.

Sleep apnea can have a profound effect on your health and well-being, causing everything from memory problems to weight gain to headaches. It may even impair your ability to work or drive. Even worse, those with sleep apnea have approximately a
five times greater risk of heart attack and stroke than everyone else. In fact, research conducted at the Mayo Clinic and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in July 2009 showed that patients with obstructive sleep
apnea were six times more likely to have had a heart attack between midnight and 6 a.m. than during the rest of the day.

Sleep apnea also boosts the risk of high blood pressure. A study conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in the April 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that those who suffered from
moderate to severe sleep apnea were at increased risk of having hypertension.

Even though you may have sleep apnea, chances are good you don’t know it. Often, it’s the spouse or bed partner who realizes there is a problem. Snoring actually irritates the airway and causes inflammation, which makes sleep apnea worse. Women can have sleep apnea, especially if they are post-menopausal and not taking hormones, are pregnant in their last trimester or have had a nose job. But many women don’t know they snore. Either they sleep alone or their husbands don’t tell them.

Either way, once you realize there is a problem, it’s time to go see your primarycare physician. Tell him or her exactly what
your symptoms are and how you are feeling. Ask to be referred to a sleep-disorder physician (if you can, choose one who is board certified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine). A sleep study either in the lab or at home (in-home testing was recently approved by Medicare) can confirm the diagnosis of sleep apnea.

Source: Costco News Chrystle Fiedler

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