Top 6 Health Conditions Linked to Sleep Apnea
Thu Nov 14 17:36:35 UTC 2013
More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop during sleep. It can last from seconds to minutes and happen 30 or more times an hour. Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, but the disorder is more serious than it appears. It is linked to many health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Nearly half of overweight people have obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity is associated with sleep apnea in two ways. Being overweight increases the amount fat tissue around the windpipe, narrowing the breathing passage. This boosts the risk of obstruction during sleep, which reduces airflow. Sleep apnea can also make it hard for your body to use energy normally. This makes it easier to gain weight, increasing your risk of obesity. It’s important to work at getting to healthy weight in order to break this cycle.
Sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes often occur together. This may be because many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, which often goes hand-in-hand with sleep apnea. Researchers also find that sleep apnea itself may increase the risk of diabetes.
Sleep apnea is linked to many types of heart disease. Sleep apnea can lower the amount of oxygen in your blood and interfere with good, restful sleep. Your body may react by releasing stress hormones. These hormones increase heart rate and the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, and abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias). In addition, people with sleep apnea often have other heart disease risks, such as obesity and diabetes.
Stress hormones triggered by sleep apnea can also increase your risk of stroke. Sleep apnea has been shown to significantly increase blood pressure—a major risk factor for stroke. Most strokes occur when a blood vessel is blocked, cutting off blood flow to the brain. Sleep apnea may also damage blood vessels in the brain. Nearly 70% of people with stroke have sleep apnea, and they may not recover as well as people without sleep apnea.
Other problems caused by sleep apnea include poor sleep, fatigue, irritability, and daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea can also affect how well you concentrate during the day. These problems can be serious. Sleep apnea doubles your risk of having a traffic accident, and people who snore and have daytime sleepiness are twice as likely to have an accident at work.
The most common cause of sleep apnea in children is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Childhood obesity is a less common cause, but having a healthy weight at any age is important to preventing other diseases connected to sleep apnea, such as type 2 diabetes. Untreated sleep apnea in children can also lead to permanent heart and lung damage. This is in addition to causing daytime sleepiness and irritability, both of which affect school performance.
Sleep apnea can be serious. Talk to your doctor if you snore or think you might have sleep apnea. A painless sleep study test can determine if you have the disorder. Modern treatments can help you get a good night’s rest, reduce the risk of many serious health problems, and ensure your day is vibrant.
Medically Reviewed By: William C. Lloyd III, MD Last Annual Review Date: October 30, 2013
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