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What Are the Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

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Sleep apnea is one of the most common undiagnosed disorders. It can have health consequences that range from mild exhaustion to increased risk of serious diseases. Sleep apnea causes a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, asthma and stroke. CPAP masks and nasal pillow can be used to treat sleep apnea and improve the overall health and well being of sufferers.

What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is caused by obstructed airways, which actually interrupt breathing for a few moments during sleep. It is estimated to affect as many as 18 million Americans, but often goes undiagnosed. It is estimated that one out of every fifty, or 2 to 4% of all Americans might have undiagnosed sleep apnea.
The effects of sleep apnea range from exhaustion and irritability due to lack of sleep to more serious risks like asthma, and other illnesses. Sleep apnea causes several serious health concerns, including greater risk of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.

What causes sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea causes can be divided into two types: obstructive and central sleep apnea. Obstructed sleep apnea is caused when the muscles at the back of the throat relax, creating a physical obstruction in the nasal airways. The airway may be narrowed or even blocked temporarily, reducing the amount of oxygen received by the body.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes the brain to wake you briefly so that you can breathe. The entire episode is so brief that you may not recall it at all. There can be five to thirty episode per hour.
Central sleep apnea is less common, and is not due to a physical obstruction but because the baron simply forgets to send a signal to breathe. People suffering from central sleep apnea may find it difficult to fall asleep of stay asleep. They may also experience waking up with shortness of breath.

Risk factors for sleep apnea
For obstructive sleep apnea, risk factors include excess weight, thicker neck circumference, narrow airways, smoking, alcohol or tranquilizer use, nasal congestion, family history and age. Gender also plays a role and men are more two times more likely than women to suffer from obstructed sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea is more likely to affect people who are older, who have suffered congestive heart failure or stroke, or who use narcotic pain medications, especially long acting opioids like methadone.

There are a number of surgical and non surgical options for treating sleep apneas. CPAP machines and nasal masks that keep nasal airways open during sleep are effective, but they take some effort to get used to. With the health risks that sleep apnea causes, it’s worthwhile for anyone suffering from sleep apnea to look into possible treatments.

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