Weighing The Risks “Over the years, the disease has become much more prevalent, especially due to the rising obesity levels,” says Dr. Delgado-Elvir. In addition to obesity, there are several other risk factors to consider when analyzing your risk for developing sleep apnea: Sorry guys, but men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. Although it can occur at any age, the likelihood of developing sleep apnea increases as you age. Factors beyond your control, like the size of your nose and throat airways or the size of your mouth, also play a role. Smaller passageways equal a better chance for obstruction. People currently suffering from heart disease or who have had a stroke are more likely to develop sleep apnea. Like most conditions, if your parents or grandparents have it, there’s a risk you may, too. In terms of testing, it’s not as simple as a blood test. Often, it’s your spouse that recognizes the symptoms before you realize there is a problem. “Many cases go undiagnosed because people don’t even realize what’s going on at night,” says Dr. Delgado-Elvir. Doctors will take a family history and may perform a physical exam looking for larger than normal tissues in the throat or nasal passageways. There are also sleep studies that record brain activity, eye movements, heart rate and blood pressure as well as chest movements to determine if you are struggling to breathe. These may be performed in a sleep lab or at home via the use of an at-home monitor.
How To Treat For a Good Night’s Sleep How your doctor decides to treat sleep apnea depends on the severity of your condition and your history. There are several lifestyle changes that can be adopted to help symptoms, such as avoiding alcohol before bedtime. In cases where the patient is overweight or obese, weight loss can have a profound effect. For some, sleeping on their side can help improve airflow. For those who need more help, Dr. Delgado-Elvir recommends the use of a special breathing mask known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. The
mask gently blows air into your throat to keep the airways open while you sleep. “The CPAP is the most effective treatment, but there are other options as well,” says Dr. Delgado-Elvir. He recommends patients visit a dental sleep medicine specialist to be fitted for night guards, which can also be effective and less cumbersome. Regardless of the treatment you choose, it’s important to remember that sleep apnea can be a side effect of other serious health conditions and seeking the help of a medical professional to determine any underlying conditions can be the best route to a healthy (and rested) you.
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