Along with the skyrocketing obesity epidemic, sleep apnea has become more and more prevalent in our society. Approximately 18 million Americans have this serious disorder today. Although it is more common in men, it increases in women after the age of 50, and one in four women over 65 have sleep apnea.
A recent study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pointed to obesity as a potential culprit in the significant increase in the rate of as much as 80 to 90 percent of sleep apnea symptoms.
The Wisconsin researchers estimate that 4 to 5 million people in the U.S. are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea; within the last 20 years, the instance of the disorder has risen 55 percent.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which there are short breathing interruptions during sleep with episodes occurring throughout the night, generally lasting for at least 10 seconds each.
Symptoms include difficulty falling asleep at night, waking throughout the night, chronic snoring, headaches upon waking, poor memory, daytime sleepiness, irritability, increased depression, trouble focusing, driving, and making decisions. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can significantly increase the risk of many other health problems.
One 2011 study found that sleep apnea can deprive the brain and other organs of the oxygen they need, which over time, triggers a decline in cognitive ability. Lead author, professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Kristine Yaffe, noted that it “suggests there is a biological connection between sleep and cognition,” adding, “treatment of sleep apnea might help prevent or delay the onset of dementia in older adults.
Researchers from a Sleep Hearth Health Study reported an increased risk of stroke in middle-aged and older adults, particularly men. They found that it more than doubled the risk; men with moderate to severe sleep apnea were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke than men without sleep apnea or with mild sleep apnea. An increased risk of stroke in women was also reported previously in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Fact: Today, stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide.
Just a few of the other health problems linked to sleep apnea include depression, silent strokes and small brain lesions, abnormalities in the blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes, even sudden hearing loss.
If you have not been diagnosed but are experiencing symptoms, see a physician who specializes in sleep disorders. As sleep apnea is frequently misdiagnosed as depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue and other conditions, it’s important to be very specific about your symptoms.
Some healthcare providers may be too quick to prescribe medications rather than perform a full sleep disorder work out; be your own health advocate to ensure this is done.
If you are overweight, or obese, this news also provides just one more reason on an already long list to transform your diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits. Don’t wait; it might just save your life.
-The Alternative Daily