Over 100 million people suffer from sleep apnea worldwide. Of these individuals, approximately 80% are currently undiagnosed and are at risk for extensive health complications. Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that involves repeatedly paused breathing. Those who have sleep apnea often snore loudly and feel exhausted even after a full night’s sleep.
An estimated one in 25 middle-aged men and one in 50 middle-aged women have sleep apnea. Ethnic groups such as African-Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop sleep apnea than are Caucasians. This condition occurs in two primary forms. In central sleep apnea, the brain does not send appropriate signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. In obstructive sleep apnea, however, the throat muscles relax to the point of hindering airflow. This latter form of sleep apnea is the more common type, affecting middle-aged males predominantly.
Sleep apnea involves several primary symptoms, which may be noticed by the patient or by their sleep partner, roommate, or other household members. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you are often aware of symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, memory and concentration difficulties, headaches, frequent urination during the night, and sweating and chest pain during sleep. Other symptoms are more obvious to your sleep partner and others; these include loud snoring, restless tossing and turning during sleep, nighttime choking or gasping, and frequent pauses in breathing.
These symptoms are generally caused by airway obstruction as a result of enlarged throat tissue or poor airway-muscle tone. If you suffer from these symptoms, see your doctor for a physical exam. He or she may refer you to a specialist for a sleep assessment like a polysomnogram, which measures various body functions during sleep to determine the severity of your breathing impairment. Based on these diagnostics, your medical team will be able to help treat your sleep apnea and to prevent any associated side effects to your cardiovascular health.
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