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New Data Shows Sleep Apnea on the Rise

Several recent studies have indicated an alarming increase in the number of people with obstructive sleep apnea. This fact has public health and safety officials very concerned.

According to the National Sleep Awareness Project, 25 million Americans have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea increases one’s risk for potentially life-threatening health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stroke.

Central and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea. Central sleep is characterized by breathing pauses that occur when the region of the brain that controls breathing fails to signal the breathing muscles to function. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type, occurs when the airway becomes blocked or collapses during sleep, causing pauses in breathing. Air that passes through the blocked airways creates a loud snoring noise.

Study Findings

The American Journal of Epidemiology recently published data that showed a significant rise in obstructive sleep apnea over the last two decades. According to this data, an estimated 26 percent of adults between 30 and 70 have sleep apnea. The current obesity epidemic is believed to be a contributing factor.

Other studies have also shown an association between sleep apnea and impaired brain and heart health, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. These studies also showed that continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) may be very effective in reducing the risk of brain and heart damage from sleep apnea. Below are some of their findings:

See Your Doctor if You Have Symptoms

Common signs of sleep apnea are breathing pauses, choking, gasping or very loud snoring during sleep. If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away. Sleep apnea can lead to more serious- and life threatening- health conditions if left untreated.

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