Despite common misconceptions, anyone – regardless of gender, weight
or fitness level – can develop obstructive sleep apnea, a life-threatening
condition characterized by episodes of complete or partial airway obstruction
during sleep. As many as 12 million to 18 million American adults have
untreated sleep apnea, and Shelbyville sleep physician Dr. Robert Shellman,
recommends the following steps for diagnosis and treatment to significantly
improve overall health, mood and productivity.
Be aware of the risk factors:
- Age and weight: Risk of sleep apnea increases between middle and older
age and with the amount of excess body weight you carry.
- Gender: Men have a greater likelihood of developing sleep apnea. However,
menopause is a risk factor for sleep apnea in women.
- Family history: Risk of sleep apnea is also higher if family members have
been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
- Habits: Smoking is another significant risk factor, as well as being a
detriment to your overall health.
- Other diseases: Many people don’t realize that they’re in greater
danger of developing sleep apnea if they already suffer from other common
diseases. Seven in 10 Type 2 diabetics and 30 to 40 percent of adults
with hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea.
Watch for symptoms:
“Not everyone who snores has the disease,” said Dr. Shellman.
“However, when snoring is paired with choking, gasping or pauses
in breathing during sleep, it’s a more likely indicator of sleep
There are also several daytime warning signs. Morning headaches, excessive
sleepiness, trouble concentrating, memory or learning problems, and general
moodiness, irritability or depression can all signal sleep apnea.
It’s critical that those exhibiting risk factors or symptoms of sleep
apnea to speak with their doctor to see if being evaluated by a board-certified
sleep medicine physician is needed. If an evaluation is needed, an MHP
provider will refer their patient to the MHP Sleep Center.
The MHP Sleep Center in Shelbyville recently received program re-accreditation
from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
“The American Academy of Sleep Medicine congratulates MHP Sleep Center
on meeting the high standards required for receiving accreditation as
a sleep disorders center,” said Dr. Ilene Rosen, AASM president.
“MHP Sleep Center is an important resource to the local medical
community and will provide academic and scientific value in addition to
the highest quality care for patients suffering from sleep disorders.”
To receive accreditation for a five-year period, a sleep center must meet
or exceed all standards for professional health care as designated by
the AASM. These standards address core areas such as personnel, facility
and equipment, policies and procedures, data acquisition, patient care,
and quality assurance. Additionally, the sleep center’s goals must
be clearly stated and include plans for positively affecting the quality
of medical care in the community it serves.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea:
“Once diagnosed, the recommended treatment for sleep apnea is continuous
positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which provides a steady stream
of air through a mask to gently keep your airway open – making it
easier to breathe,” said Dr. Shellman. “It’s estimated
that CPAP therapy reduces the 10-year risk of heart attack by 49 percent
and stroke by 31 percent.”
“Treating sleep apnea provides all the benefits of improved sleep,
including improved memory and cognitive function,” said Dr. Shellman.
“Clinical evidence also shows that sleep apnea treatment lowers
blood pressure – decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Left untreated, sleep apnea may have a serious impact on overall health,
even increasing risk of death.”
Patients with loud snoring and symptoms of sleep illness should contact
their primary care provider to schedule a consultation to see if a referral
to the MHP Sleep Center is needed. More information is available online
at www.mymhp.org/sleep. Dr. Shellman works closely with primary care physicians
to align treatments with other conditions.