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Understanding Obesity Related Diseases: Sleep Apnea

As more of our population become obese and overweight, obesity diseases become much more prevalent. Diabetes is one such disease, and here I explain what it is, why it affects the overweight, symptoms and prevention.sleep-apnea

What is it?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping and breathing disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, which has the potential to be fatal.  There are two main types of sleep apnea: 1) obstructive and 2) central (or you could have a combo of the two, which is known as complex sleep apnea).  Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax, whereas central sleep apnea occurs when your brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.

Why is it affected by obesity/overweight?
Excessive weight and fat deposits around your upper airway seen with obesity may obstruct your breathing and lead to sleep apnea.  It is important to keep in mind that not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight.

What are the symptoms?
The list below, provided on the Mayo Clinic website, displays the most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
  • Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)

What can you do to prevent it?
Treatment is necessary to avoid heart problems and other complications.  For more mild cases, simple lifestyle changes are recommended.  These changes would include improvements on weight (i.e. losing weight) or quitting smoking.  However, for more serious conditions, medical attention is needing to determine which therapy would be appropriate.

April 19th, 2009

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What is causing sleep apnea? Im really worried about my Mom! My mom has been having breathing problems and they are sudden onset at times! She says the air starts to feel like its thick and she just cant get her breath! She has been to the hospital twice with this problem and they admit her and run some tests which all come out clean and then they send her home pretty much without any answers! This is very discouraging both to her and the family! Shouldnt they give her something, maybe even an inhaler or something that she can carry with her and use when these problems occur? She also Has sleep apnea and stop breathing at night, sometimes for several minutes at a times, could the sleep apnea be contributing to Her breathing problems during the day and if so what can be done about this! She is a soon to be 45 yr old female. She has been a non smoker for roughly 15 years now, she has some high blood pressure issues, some problems with potassium and she ways roughly 240 lbs, give or take! Please help, apparently the doctor isnt catching something and this is worrying me sick!! I dont want to lose her, my Great Grandmother died around this age and if im not mistaken it was due to similar problems! Im incredibly concerned!!

posted Jul 7th, 2011 6:43 am


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3 Responses to “Understanding Obesity Related Diseases: Sleep Apnea”

happy life
Apr 19th, 2009
8:31 pm

hi kinsey, thanks for the information about sleep apnea.. hmm, i must get started to check my health again… make sure that i’m fine and no diabetic symptom

Vanessa M | CPAP machine
Apr 26th, 2009
7:12 pm

Thanks for the post Kinsey. I know that many over weight people develop sleep apnea, but thanks for recognizing that many people get this disease even when they are not obese. I am one of these exceptions and people are always surprised when I tell them.

Jun 2nd, 2009
10:52 pm

I was diagnosed yesterday with central sleep apnea. My ENT didn’t seem to have a clue, so he sent me to my neurosurgeon. Neither knew much about the problem, and fortunately neither was afraid to let me know (that’s the right kind of DR in my opinion…one who will admit his shortcomings or lack of knowledge in an area). Anyway, I’m being sent next to a neurologist. Of course, I have been doing a lot of research, but reading about some of the things that could cause CSA, i.e. Shy-Dreger, are pretty scary. Anybody out there have any knowledge to share?