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Atrial fibrillation and its links to sleep apnea

What is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that causes the heart to beat in an “irregularly irregular” pattern. Electrical impulses do not follow the usual orderly movement from the heart’s upper chambers (atria) to its lower chambers (ventricles). The ventricles are the chambers that push blood to the rest of the body. Keep reading

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Depending on the type and severity of sleep apnea that you have, you may have several possible options to treat your sleep apnea. General Strategies Most people with sleep apnea have worse symptoms when sleeping on their back. There are several devices and tricks that can be used to encourage sleeping on the side or belly which can improve sleep apnea symptoms, especially in people with “position-dependent” sleep apnea. Keep reading

Women, Sleep Apnea, and Heart Disease

In a recent study, my colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Columbia University and Baylor Medical Center and I found that older women are at higher relative risk of developing sleep apnea-related heart disease than older men. This study turns on its head the notion that sleep apnea is a “man’s” disease- that is, traditional thinking that men are both more likely to have sleep apnea and have sleep apnea-related health problems. Keep reading

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

If you think you may have sleep apnea, you should visit your health care provider and let them know of your concerns. Usually, they will complete a physical exam and ask about your medical history for risk factors. There are several questionnaires your health care provider might ask you to complete to help determine your risk level. Keep reading

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

There are many other health conditions that can increase the risk of sleep apnea or exaggerate the effects of sleep apnea. These include: Risk Factors High blood pressure (hypertension) Heart disease (coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation) Stroke Overweight and obesity Large neck size (>17 inches for men, >16 inches for women) Diabetes Family history of sleep apnea Low physical activity Keep reading

New Frontiers in Treatment: Unilateral Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation

Unilateral stimulation of the hypoglossal nerve (the nerve that controls the movement of the tongue) is a new treatment for people with moderate to severe OSA who are unable to use continuous positive prtessure therapy (CPAP). CPAP, oral appliances, and some surgeries work “from the outside in” to prevent the tissues from relaxing and blocking the upper airway (nasal and oral passages).1 This nerve stimulation therapy works “from the inside out” to move the muscles and keep the airway open. Keep reading

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The symptoms of sleep apnea are fairly common for both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Most people have some of these symptoms. It is not well understood who gets which symptoms. Keep reading

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Large tonsils/adenoids Large neck size (17 inches in men, 16 inches in women) Large tongue Obesity - especially an “apple” body shape Small or narrow airway A short lower jaw (compared to the upper jaw) Other structural abnormalities in the airway Central Sleep Apnea Heart failure Certain medicines, such as narcotic painkillers Stroke Brain infection Brainstem disorders Congenital disorders Keep reading

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is related to abnormalities in how the brain senses and responds to changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide while breathing. In CSA, the muscles that control breathing do not receive normal signals from the brain that tell them when to function. Central sleep apnea can be due to problems with the brainstem, which is responsible for our basic operations such as breathing, and may be seen in children or other individuals with certain congenital problems. Keep reading

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is estimated that nearly one in 12 adults has OSA. OSA is especially common in people who are overweight, older, have diabetes, and have high blood pressure. However, anyone can have sleep apnea and as many as 20% of people with sleep apnea are not overweight. Once thought as mostly a men’s disorder, sleep apnea is now recognized to be common in women. The prevalence of sleep apnea increases in women after menopause. Keep reading