A diagnosis of sleep apnea can be frightening or frustrating to patients, many of whom may need to make lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, and environment to reverse the sleep disorder. In the face of such changes, many people may find it tempting to simply do nothing. However, left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to much worse health conditions and a diminished quality of life for those who suffer from it.
One of the most important things that a patient diagnosed with sleep apnea can do is to take action towards better health. Without positive lifestyle changes, patients are at greater risk for severe illness.
Higher risk of cardiovascular diseases
The pulmonary system is closely linked to the respiratory system; therefore, sleep apnea can have a prominent effect on a patient’s heart. Patients with the disorder can experience high blood pressure, blood clots and also a higher risk of stroke than people without disordered sleeping. A healthy diet rich in fresh foods and vitamins can help with weight loss and improve heart health.
Medical researchers have discovered a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain, especially as people age. When the body does not receive adequate rest, it tends to retain weight. Patients suffering from sleep apnea are at higher risk for developing symptoms of chronic fatigue, which can lead to weight gain. Tired people are also often less likely to exercise, which can contribute to being overweight, too.
Diminished mental health
Since patients with sleep apnea cannot receive proper rest, they are more likely to exhibit signs of exhaustion. This can manifest in physical fatigue but also in emotional and mental symptoms. Mood swings, depression, and irritability have all been connected with sleep apnea. Through consistent treatment and lifestyle changes, exhaustion can be reversed and these symptoms can subside.
Greater likelihood of dangerous situations
Unfortunately, if exhaustion is left untreated, it can lead to hazardous situations for patients. Reduced motor function is one common symptom of fatigue, so people with sleep apnea may operate dangerous machinery incorrectly at work or fall asleep while driving on the highway. Additionally, a lack of sleep has been linked with decreased morale, so people with sleep apnea may be more likely to function less effectively in the workplace.
Threat of impotence
All of the major systems and organs of the body depend on getting adequate time to rest, repair and produce necessary hormones. Normally, this can be achieved through a healthy diet, moderate exercise, and a substantial sleeping schedule. Sleep apnea disrupts resting time, which can inhibit testosterone production in men who suffer from the disorder. In addition, people suffering from the disorder do not get the appropriate amount of oxygen, which can cause impotence.
Treating sleep apnea is the first step in preventing the further development of illness and other health and lifestyle issues in patients. Surgery is an option for treatment, but there are also many effective nonsurgical options available to patients.
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Roy B. Guster DDS PC
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