SLEEP APNEA – WHAT TO DO?

As we said yesterday, up to half of obese (BMI>30; click here for online BMI calculator – and tell the truth!) people may have sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart attack, low libido, erectile dysfunction, accidents, stroke…
Standard “first-line” treatment of sleep apnea is with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a breathing devise worn during sleep .

To eliminate snoring and prevent sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a device called a nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine delivers just enough air pressure to a mask to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing snoring and apnea.

CPAP (Mayo Clinic)

CPAP lowers blood pressure, improves heart function, and may raise testosterone in men (many obese men and those with sleep apnea have low testosterone – more about that another time).

The problem with CPAP is that not everyone can tolerate it.  Estimates of the percentage of people who actually get benefit from their CPAP range from 25-75%; defined as those that wear it > 4.5 hrs a night, and reach the deepest levels of refreshing sleep.

I couldn’t tolerate CPAP for many years, despite my attempts.  I was finally able to wear it, but it is bulky, which made it difficult for me to travel.  It also makes noise that can disturb bed partners, though not as much as snoring does!

Fortunately, weight loss (10% of body weight) can improve sleep apnea tremendously.  Many people who undergo gastric bypass surgery quickly find that they no longer need CPAP.  I lost 125 lbs over 18 months without surgery, and now my CPAP device gathers dust in my closet!

My_CPAP_machine

My old CPAP machine – I no longer need it!

So, see your doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea.  But the best treatment, once again, remains losing weight.

In another post, we’ll talk about how poor and/or inadequate sleep actually increases appetite and can contribute to obesity.

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See vascularanesthesia.com for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.

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