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 apnea.”
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.

Get evaluated:

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 Dr. Shellman works closely with primary care physicians to align treatments with other conditions.