Approximately 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and nearly 80 million are overweight. Both of these problems are at epidemic levels, and they have made a costly impact on the overall health of Americans. Sleep apnea and obesity are implicated as causes of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. However, there is also a strong relationship between these two conditions as well, and millions are afflicted with both. Below is more information about the interrelated nature of sleep apnea and obesity and how these problems can be overcome:
Sleep apnea and obesity
Sleep apnea occurs when breathing is obstructed multiple times per night. This episodic breathing pattern causes the patient to startle, gasp and snort. Sleep apnea patients rarely awaken fully or recall these episodes, but their breathing dysfunction negatively affects quality of sleep. In addition, those persons with sleep apnea often snore, and this can be frustrating for partners who have their sleep interrupted as well.
There are several potential causes of sleep apnea, but one that stands out above the others is obesity. Persons who are obese often have excess tissue in the back of their throats; when they lie down, the tissue hangs down over the airway and inhibits free breathing.
Why sleep apnea makes losing weight difficult
Obesity and sleep apnea are not only causally related, each condition actually aggravates the other and pulls the patient into a downward spiral. Individuals with chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to experience metabolic changes and slowdowns, and these effects make weight loss more difficult. Thus, while obesity can cause sleep apnea, the apnea itself reinforces obesity.
How to break the cycle
Escaping the trap that ensnares patients with both sleep apnea and obesity isn't always easy. However, under the care and guidance of medical professionals, those who suffer from these conditions can find healing. The key to success is treating each problem with an appropriate therapy. Below are some of the most effective treatment options in use today:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) – this tested and proven technology is effective in treating patients with sleep apnea. By introducing a light flow of air into patients' airways through face masks, CPAP machines are able to prevent breathing passages from collapsing. Patients are able to sleep more soundly, and the number of nighttime interruptions are minimized. Ultimately, this restores a more-normal metabolic rate, and helps alleviate some of the factors involved in obesity. In addition, a well-rested person is more apt to be physically active, and this contributes to a healthier lifestyle.
Medical weight management – for many persons struggling with obesity, it is necessary for them to seek professional help in order to overcome their condition. Bariatric physicians, dietitians and other members of the health care team can provide a number of effective interventions to help patients lose weight. Here are a few specific strategies that are commonly used:
Supervised diet plans – these plans are specifically created with an individual patient in mind. They are professionally planned and implemented by dietitians, and a patient's progress is monitored closely. The dietitian will adjust the diet based on changes in the patient's health and weight-loss patterns.
Exercise and fitness programming – along with dieting, physical exercise is important for patients seeking to lose weight. A medical approach will utilize the skills of an athletic trainer or fitness coach to ensure a safe, effective plan of action is implemented with patients. This prevents a patient from being injured and helps them find the most personal success.
Bariatric surgery – operations for the purpose of assisting weight loss are now commonplace in America. Around 150,000 persons per year undergo weight loss surgery, and these surgeries include a wide variety of unique procedures. Some procedures focus on reducing absorption of nutrients while others are centered around reducing digestive capacity so the patient feels "full" much sooner. The most popular procedure is the sleeve gastrectomy; this surgery entails the removal of approximately three-fourths of the stomach to create a much smaller, tube-like organ. It has shown to be quite successful in inducing weight-loss, and its safety record is strong.
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