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Sleep apnea and your health

Do you snore loudly? Are you tired during the day even after what you thought was a full night’s sleep? If so, you may be suffering from sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing periodically while they sleep; this is dangerous and can lead to various health issues.

In the most common form of sleep apnea (known as obstructive sleep apnea), the muscles in your larynx collapse, preventing the flow of air to the lungs. The brain, recognizing a decrease of oxygen in the blood, sends a signal to the body to arouse you from sleep to take a breath. In addition to preventing a good night’s sleep for you (and your partner!), sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and an increased chance of heart failure or stroke. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may find yourself unable to stay awake at work, while watching TV, or even while driving.

Men over the age of 40 are most commonly affected by sleep apnea, but any person who is overweight or obese has a higher risk of developing the condition. Excess weight, especially around the neck, can obstruct the breathing passages. Losing weight by following the principles of the South Beach Diet may relieve the obstruction, lessen snoring, and help you to breathe easier.

Sleep apnea should not be taken lightly. Consult your doctor if you believe you suffer from the condition and weight loss is not helping. Your doctor can recommend alternative treatments.