Sleep apnea raises death risk 46
AFP/File –Persons afflicted
with severe breathing disorders during sleep face an increased
Severe sleep apnea raises
the risk of dying early by 46 percent, U.S. researchers reported Monday, but
said people with milder sleep-breathing problems do not share that risk.
They said people with severe breathing disorders during
sleep were more likely to die from a variety of causes than similar people
without such sleep disorders. The risks are most
obvious in men aged 40 to 70, Naresh Punjabi of Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore and colleagues found.
Sleep apnea is caused by a collapse of the upper airway
during sleep. Strong snoring can be a symptom but what makes apnea different
are numerous brief interruptions in breathing.
Sleep apnea is closely linked with obesity, high blood pressure, heart
failure and stroke, but researchers have not been able to clearly
quantify how much more likely it makes a person to die.
Punjabi's team studied 6,400 men and women for an average
of eight years. Those who started with major sleep apnea were 46 percent more
likely to die from any cause, regardless of age, sex, race, weight or
smoking, they reported in the Public Library of
Science journal PLoS Medicine.
Men aged 40 to 70 with severe sleep-disordered breathing
were twice as likely to die from any cause as healthy men the same age, they
reported in the study -- available online at
"Among men, 42.9 percent did not have
sleep-disordered breathing, 33.2 percent had mild disease, 15.7 percent had
moderate disease, and 8.2 percent had severe disease," they wrote.
They said about 25 percent of the women had mild sleep
apnea, 8 percent had moderate disease and 3 percent had severely disordered
The researchers, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health,
said people with milder sleep-breathing disorders were not more likely to die
The NHLBI estimates 12 million adult Americans have sleep
apnea, but most are not diagnosed or treated. The
National Sleep Foundation puts the number at 18 million.
"In severe sleep apnea a patient's airway is blocked
while the patient suffers for 20 to 30 seconds and wakes up.
"When it becomes this frequent -- 30 times per hour
-- about every two minutes it is severe sleep apnea and can become a
problem," said Dr. David Rapoport of New York
University, who worked on the study.
"The best treatment for sleep apnea is weight loss.
However, the most successful treatment can be a nasal CPAP (continuous
positive airway pressure) mask that applies pressure to help keep the airways
of a patient open while they sleep, allowing normal breathing," he added
in a statement.
"Another possible helpful treatment is surgery. That
may include tonsil removal," said
Rapoport. "A mouth guard that pulls a patient's mouth forward is another
A small Canadian company, Victhom Human Bionics Inc., has
filed a patent on a new device to detect sleep apnea, which must usually be
diagnosed in a sleep lab and Medtronic Inc.
makes sleep apnea devices.
Physical Traits Tied to Risk Factors
Possible genetic link -- If you are related to someone who has
sleep apnea, chances are you are at a higher risk of developing the disorder
More prevalent in men than women
Higher risk among African-Americans, Hispanics and Pacific
Islanders than in Caucasians
Increases as you get older
People with large or thick necks (17 inches or greater in a man,
or 16 inches or greater in a woman)
People with a large overbite, recessed chin or small jaw
People with small airways in their noses, throats or mouths
Adults with enlarged uvulas -- the tissue flap that hangs down
in the back of the throat, large tongue or soft palate
Babies and small children with swollen tonsils
Other lifestyle factors and health conditions that increase the
High Blood Pressure
Heart Failure and Stroke
There are treatments for sleep apnea. One is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): This method is difficult for some people to get use to. At
Southwest Family Dentistry Dr. Ching is certified to custom fit patient’s
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