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Sleep Apnea and Being Overweight - Dangers and Recommendations

Most people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member may first notice the signs of sleep apnea. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This most often means that the airway has collapsed or is blocked during sleep. The blockage may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses.

There are two types of sleep apnea: Central and Obstructive. This is a common problem among the morbidly obese which requires them to wear an oxygen mask so they can breathe since that's due in part of their weight bearing down on their chest crushing their rib cage and lungs.

According to medical reports the population at risk are obese middle-aged males since physiology doesn't make women potential sufferers of sleep apnea. The problem is that people who do fall asleep due to sleep apnea will go through brief periods where people think they're not going to wake up. Keep in mind that this is very serious because if it's not properly diagnosed it can be life threatening. People with excessive weight usually morbidly obese constantly have to deal with frequent episodes of paused breathing. Snoring is a common problem with the morbidly obese and constant gasping for air while sleeping is another problem. Obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous to the heart because it's prolonging and deprivation of oxygen to keep the circulation flowing efficiently.

Sleep apnea has also been linked to congestive and congenital heart failure usually found in people who are diagnosed as morbidly obese because of the excessive weight on them. This is from severe and prolonged cases meaning the individual(s) were not being treated and had let the condition get to the point that it's no longer treatable.

The factors that are considered are an individual's medical history, severity of the disorder, and the specific cause for the obstruction. Some treatments also incorporate a lifestyle change, avoiding alcohol and medications that can relax the nervous system.

Other lifestyle changes include losing weight and quitting smoking, and incorporating things like elevating themselves while sleeping so that they can breathe using slanted pillows. The weight issue is the biggest lifestyle concern because that causes some people to be confined to beds where they can't move and be active contributing further into a person's weight gain.

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References and Sources: Medline, Pubmed, National Institutes of Health

last update: May 2009

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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