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pinchingbellyfatToday, almost everyone that struggles with their weight understands the toll it can take on your health, as well as your emotional state. The struggle to maintain a healthy body weight has become even more difficult for millions of people at risk for sleep apnea due to being overweight.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is an all too common condition where a person periodically stops breathing while they are asleep, which has serious health implications. It is no coincidence that many people who are overweight also snore. Nor is it coincidental that a high percentage of these people suffer from OSA. It is estimated that 60 percent of people who snore actually have sleep apnea.

Snoring is usually caused by the relaxation of the throat muscles during sleep. This leads to tissue in the throat blocking the airway when you lay down. Although a little narrowing of the airway is normal, when it becomes severe, it leads to a much greater collapse of the airway behind the tongue. This is what causes snoring. When the collapse is complete it causes apnea, which means “without breath.”

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When these apneic events happen and the person stops breathing (often hundreds of times a night for as long as a minute each time), they wake from the restorative REM sleep, and the cycle starts all over again. It is not uncommon to have brain fog, memory loss, or fall asleep during the day. Things only get worse from there as OSA is closely linked to potential development of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes, as well as other life-threatening conditions.

Being overweight saps your energy, and having OSA on top of that means that the lack of a good night’s sleep can make it even worse. There are numerous studies showing that sleep deprivation has been shown to lower the body’s hunger-dampening protein known as Leptin.

OSA and a high fat diet both slow our body’s metabolism, lower insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, as well as raise blood pressure. So, these challenges can work to create a cycle that leads to greater weight gain. This low energy state of OSA makes it hard to keep up with an exercise regimen. The natural depression that can come from being overweight and through OSA just makes motivating yourself that much harder.

The link between OSA and weight is the gift that keeps on giving as scientists now have supporting evidence that even people within healthy weight parameters but suffer from OSA are at a high risk of weight gain. This is a good wakeup call (pun intended) for all of us whether we have OSA or not, and whether or not we are struggling with being overweight. The good news is that spreading this knowledge will help all of us stick to eating healthier and exercising regularly to avoid, or help reverse, the symptoms of OSA.

There are millions of people that are walking around with this condition that remain undiagnosed. Consequently, it is imperative to discuss symptoms like sleeplessness and snoring with your physician to determine the proper course of action. If you have sleep apnea, you may be a candidate for Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Considered by the medical community as the most effective means of counteracting sleep apnea, CPAP therapy requires the user to wear a mask and a machine continuously. This equipment gently delivers air during the night to keep your airway open. The goal is to get your weight and the sleep apnea under control so that you can enjoy life as a healthy, well-rested person.

Bio: Melissa Howe is a freelance writer with more than two decades writing about health and health technology. Having focused most of her writing career on sleep apnea and its health related conditions, she is a regular contributing writer for The CPAP Shop.

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