A few decades ago, sleep apnea received little attention. Perhaps many people were not aware of what it is or why it is so dangerous. That has changed. Data indicates that in recent years, the number of people starting treatment for sleep apnea has significantly increased. Greater availability of education about the disorder may be part of the reason for the uptick in diagnoses, but there may be more to the story. Let’s talk about some common risk factors for sleep apnea and how you can keep your risk as low as possible.
In a recent period of roughly 17 years, rates of obesity in the United States significantly increased, going from 30.5% to 42.4%. During that same period, rates of severe obesity also increased, jumping from 4.7% to 9.2%. Obesity is a significant risk factor for sleep apnea because more fatty tissue around the neck can put pressure on the oral structures, leading to airway collapse and pauses in breathing.
Doing your best to manage your weight may reduce your risk of sleep apnea. That isn’t to say you should resort to fad diets or an extreme exercise routine. However, simple steps like cutting back on sugar and being aware of overall caloric intake may be wise.
Thanks to advances in medicine and other factors, the number of senior citizens in the U.S. is on the rise. While getting older may have its charms, an increased risk of sleep apnea is not one of them. With age, the muscles in the throat tend to weaken and are more likely to contribute to pauses in breathing.
Of course, you cannot stop yourself from getting older. However, you can make smart lifestyle choices as you age that will decrease your risk of sleep apnea. For example, you could be determined not to smoke, enjoy alcohol only in moderation, and try to stay as physically active as your circumstances allow.
Other Risk Factors
Of course, no matter what you weigh and no matter how old you are, there is always at least a small chance that you could develop sleep apnea. Anatomical issues like a narrow palate or enlarged adenoids may cause you to suffer from the disorder. If you believe that the quality of your rest is not what it should be, you should ask your medical team about undergoing a sleep test. Once you are properly diagnosed, you can explore your options for managing your apnea so you can get the rest you need to enjoy optimum health.
Sleep apnea may be on the rise — but so is our understanding of how to prevent and manage it. Taking action now to protect your airway will support your overall wellness and may enhance your quality of life.
Meet Dr. Conditt
Dr. Mitch Conditt is a sleep dentist who specializes in helping people fight sleep apnea via custom oral appliances. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea himself in 2009, so he has special empathy for his patients. To learn more about him and how he may be able to serve you, contact our office at 817-527-8500.