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... Jun 07, 2019

Posted by MOHAMMED SHAMIA

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Sleep Apnea Can Have Deadly Consequences
Medical

The condition is on the rise because the most frequent cause is obesity, which continues its unrelenting climb among American adults.


Although the woman in her 50s had been effectively treated for depression, she remained plagued by symptoms that often accompany it: fatigue, sleepiness and lethargy, even though she thought she was getting enough sleep.

Sure enough, a night in the sleep lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s  Perelman School of Medicine revealed that while the woman was supposedly asleep, she experienced micro-awakenings about 18 times an hour, resulting in sleep that restored neither body nor brain. All night long, she would stop breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time, followed by a mini-arousal and a snore as she gasped for breath to raise the depleted oxygen level in her blood.


Diagnosis: Obstructive sleep apnea, an increasingly common yet often missed or untreated  condition that can result in poor quality of life, a risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer, and perhaps most important of all, a threefold increased risk of often-fatal motor vehicle accidents.


Obstructive sleep apnea afflicts about 9 percent of women and 24 percent of men, most of them middle-aged or older, yet as many as 9 in 10 adults with this treatable condition remain undiagnosed, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.


The condition is on the rise because the most frequent cause is obesity, which continues its unrelenting climb among American adults. Sleep apnea afflicts more than two people in five who have a body mass index of more than 30, and three in five adults with metabolic syndrome, Dr. Sigrid C. Veasey and Dr. Ilene M. Rosen wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in April.

Although sleep apnea occasionally affects slender folks who may, for example, have a small jaw or large tongue, in overweight people, excess fatty tissue in the tongue and throat can block the airway when throat muscles relax during sleep. This is most likely to happen when people sleep on their backs.

Weight loss helps but may not always correct the problem. Dr. Rosen told me of a man in his 40s who had been treated for congestive heart failure and lost 40 pounds. Still, he remained tired all the time, and his wife said he snored so loudly she had to wear earplugs at night. Then she read about sleep apnea in a magazine and insisted he visit the sleep lab, where an overnight study showed his breathing was disrupted 45 times an hour, causing his blood’s oxygen level at night to drop to 65 percent of normal.

This man’s story prompted me to ask Dr. Veasey, “What about those of us without a bed partner? How might we know if we have obstructive sleep apnea?

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