Despite common misconceptions, anyone – regardless of gender, weight or fitness level – can develop obstructive sleep apnea, a life-threatening condition characterized by episodes of complete or partial airway obstruction during sleep.
Twelve million to 18 million American adults have untreated sleep apnea. Dr. David Kuhlmann, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine who specializes in sleep medicine at Bothwell Sleep Center, recommends the following steps for diagnosis and treatment to significantly improve overall health, mood and productivity.
Be aware of the risk factors
- Age and weight: Risk of sleep apnea increases between middle and old age and an increased amount of excess body weight carried.
- Gender: Men have a greater likelihood of developing sleep apnea. However, menopause is a risk factor for sleep apnea in women.
- Family history: Risk of sleep apnea also is higher if family members have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
- Habits: Smoking is another significant risk factor, as well as being a detriment to your overall health.
- Other diseases: Many people don’t realize that they’re in greater danger of developing sleep apnea if they already suffer from other common diseases. Seven in 10 Type 2 diabetics and 30 to 40 percent of adults with hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea.
Watch for symptoms
“Not everyone who snores has the disease,” Kuhlmann said. “However, when snoring is paired with choking, gasping or pauses in breathing during sleep, it’s a more likely indicator of sleep apnea.”
There are also several daytime warning signs. Morning headaches, excessive sleepiness, trouble concentrating, memory or learning problems, and general moodiness, irritability or depression can all signal sleep apnea.
Get evaluated and treated
It’s critical that those exhibiting risk factors or symptoms of sleep apnea be evaluated by a board-certified sleep medicine physician right away.
“Once diagnosed, the recommended treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which provides a steady stream of air through a mask to gently keep your airway open and make it easier to breathe,” Kuhlmann said. “It’s estimated that CPAP therapy reduces the 10-year risk of heart attack by 49 percent and stroke by 31 percent.”
As a sleep specialist, Dr. Kuhlmann has the training and expertise to diagnose sleep apnea and other sleep conditions. A patient who is found to be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea will be scheduled for a sleep study. Objective sleep testing provides the data that enables an accurate diagnosis.
“Treating sleep apnea provides all the benefits of improved sleep, including improved memory and cognitive function,” he added. “Clinical evidence also shows that sleep apnea treatment lowers blood pressure, decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Left untreated, sleep apnea may have a serious impact on overall health, even increasing risk of death.”
Bothwell Sleep Centers are at 600 E. 12th St. in Sedalia and 110 Tower Dr. in Warsaw. To schedule a consultation, contact the Bothwell Sleep Center office at 660.827.3573.