Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Recently, we discussed the link between diabetes and sleep apnea
. Studies have shown that prolonged apneas can, over time, trigger the onset of Type-II Diabetes in some patients. Cursory research suggests that the connection may run even deeper, and that a patient’s weight could be intricately linked to their sleep apnea condition.

Scientists in Finland recently conducted a study that linked weight with sleep apnea, and worsening sleep apnea symptoms. The study found that patients who lost just 5 percent of their body weight saw significant improvement in their condition.

Lead researcher Dr. Henri Tuomilehto, a visiting professor at the University of Montreal, also noted that being just moderately overweight
made people susceptible to sleep apnea: “Being overweight is considered the most important risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea,” Dr. Tuomilehto said, adding that “around 70 percent of all patients with obstructive sleep apnea are obese.”

When a person is obese, fatty tissue accumulates throughout their body. One spot particularly prone to getting a significant increase of fatty tissue is the neck, which is where diabetes and sleep apnea collide. The tissue growth at the neck can eventually narrow a person’s airway, making their neck more susceptible to obstruction during sleep.

While weight management should be part of any therapy that seeks to reduce complications from sleep apnea, a balanced diet and regular exercise aren’t enough to combat the disease. Regular use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask can further mitigate sleep apnea symptoms, even in people who are not obese or who are not in the process of losing weight.

For patients who are obese, a CPAP mask is even more crucial. CPAP machines and masks continuously pump air at a standard pressure, allowing patients to get the oxygen they need throughout the night. This infusion of air is especially important for people who may naturally have compromised airflow.

Ultimately, CPAP machines
are a vital part of sleep apnea therapy for all patients with sleep apnea, and are particularly vital for obese patients, or for people who want to lose weight. Regular use of a CPAP mask, along with diet and exercise, can lead to fewer symptoms, a higher quality sleep, and a better life.


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