Risks of Untreated OSA

Reverse These Health Risks by Treating OSA

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder manifest by snoring and pauses in breathing during sleep. OSA is associated with repetitive disruptions to sleep resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). Snoring has been estimated to occur in as many as 40% of women and 60% of men, increasing in prevalence as we age and gain weight. Snoring is much more common than OSA which is estimated to occur in 24% of men and 9% of women. When we combine snoring, pauses in breathing and EDS the syndrome of OSA occurs in 4% of men and 2% of women. That may not sound like a lot of people. However, to put this in perspective, the prevalence of asthma, a much more recognizable disorder is found in 4% of the population. OSA is therefore a much more common disorder than asthma. The problem is that despite its prevalence in the US, more than 90% of patients with OSA are yet to be diagnosed or treated. Here are eight reason to be diagnosed and treated if you have OSA.

1. High blood pressure

Numerous studies have shown that OSA is a cause of or contributing factor in the development of high blood pressure, also known as “hypertension.” The greater the severity of OSA the greater the increases in blood pressure. Previously stable hypertension or difficult to control hypertension may be related to the devopment of new OSA or poor control of previously well controlled OSA.  Elevations in blood pressure even can occur in children who have OSA.

2. Heart disease

Untreated OSA is a risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. as of 2005. Studies have repeated shown that OSA increases the risk for an irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, heart attack and congestive heart failure.

3. Stroke

OSA increases your risk for stroke, the third leading cause of death in the U.S. as of 2005. A stroke is a “brain attack” that occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. It can result from either a blood clot that blocks an artery or from a broken blood vessel. Strokes can result in impairment of speech and swallowing, weakness of your extremities or even permanent paralysis.

4. Brain damage

Scientific studies have provided visual evidence of brain damage that occurs in people with OSA. The damage affects brain structures that help control functions such as memory, mood and blood pressure. Treatment of OSA often results in an improvement of mood, cognitive function and hypertension.

5. Depression

Research shows that depression is common in people with OSA. Even mild OSA gives you a much greater risk of depression. This risk for depression increases with the severity of OSA. Treatment of OSA may improve mood and depression and allow a reduction or discontinuation of anti-depressant medications.

6. Diabetes

OSA is associated with impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes, a leading cause of death in the U.S., occurs when the body fails to use insulin effectively. Research suggests that OSA can contribute to the onset of diabetes. Treating OSA may result in a decrease in insulin resistance and improvement in the control of diabetes.

7. Obesity

Obesity is a key risk factor for OSA. But there is increasing evidence that OSA also may promote weight gain. OSA can fragment sleep, reducing daytime energy and physical activity. It also can disrupt metabolism. OSA may alter the levels of hormones that regulate your appetite, which may lead you to eat more. If your metabolism is slow, your appetite is increased and you do not have the energy to exercise because your sleep is disrupted by OSA, it is easy to see why weight loss would be difficult.  Treating OSA will improve your energy levels and put you in a better frame of mind to diet and exercise.

8. Mortality

Numerous studies have shown an increase in mortality in untreated OSA patients. The risk of mortality increases with the severity of the OSA. Untreated OSA has also recently been associated with a five fold increase in cancer risk.

You now have eight excellent reasons for getting diagnosed and treated if you think you might have OSA. Don't delay. See a sleep specialist today!


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