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Dealing with Sleep Apnea: What Are the Risk Factors?

risk factors definition with a pencil next to it

Did you know that some of your attributes, characteristics and behaviors could be putting you at risk of developing sleep apnea? When we talk about the term “risk factor,” we mean: a variable that increases the likelihood of a certain medical condition or injury.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

You may already be aware of the common symptoms of sleep apnea, but knowing the risk factors can help you determine just how closely you should be monitoring yourself for signs of this sleep disorder. If any of the following apply to you, you have an increased risk of dealing with sleep apnea:
  • Obesity
  • Thick neck circumference
  • Narrow airways
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Cigarette usage
  • Male
  • Middle-aged or older

Heart Disease, Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

xray of heart

In some cases, sleep apnea itself has been shown to be a risk factor for other serious medical conditions. In one 2011 study, researchers found that men with severe obstructive sleep apnea had a 58% higher risk of heart failure. A different study published in 2013 revealed that obstructive sleep apnea patients had a 30% higher risk of developing diabetes.Heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea share some of the same risk factors. For example, obesity and high blood pressure are associated with all three of these health conditions.

Managing Sleep Apnea 

Understanding the risk factors can be helpful when it comes to managing sleep apnea. In some cases, sleep apnea can be managed with lifestyle changes alone, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. More commonly, though, sleep apnea patients require continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy to effectively treat this condition. CPAP therapy may even lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.If you think you might be dealing with sleep apnea, be sure to talk to your doctor about risk factors and symptoms of sleep apnea so you can obtain a proper diagnosis and begin recommended treatment.