Untreated Sleep Apnea link to Cancer
While breathing is an issue we generally never even have to think about, there are times when breathing isn’t exactly as easy as you may think. In fact, one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States is associated by a distinct lack of the ability to properly breathe at night. Having breathing persistent issues during sleep is generally diagnosed as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea consists of a person’s breathing ceasing during their slumber, sometimes for mere seconds and potentially up to minutes at a time. When oxygen isn’t able to properly reach the brain or heart, it can cause developmental issues in children and long-term cardiovascular issues for adults.
Sleep apnea can come in two forms, central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Patients with OSA are far more common and are characterized by obstruction of breathing pathways, generally via a collapse in the soft tissue of the throat. CSA does not involve any physical obstructions; instead the cause of the oxygen disruptions originates from within, or centrally. The brain will stop sending the necessary chemical messages that maintain healthy muscle function due to the imbalance of the respiratory control center.
Recent cohort studies have focused their attention on the relationship between sleep apnea and cancer. In an article published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, subjects that had sleep apnea were found to have more health problems than patients devoid of sleeping issues. This same group of subjects with sleep apnea also happened to include a greater number of overweight individuals on average.
Being healthy means different things for different people but, being obese is often seen as a partner to sleep apnea. The two together have been associated with heart disease, diabetes, and an increase in the number of cancer cases over the past decade. As noted by the aforementioned study, obesity contributes to about 15-20% of all cancer deaths. In order to spare yourself the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, it’s crucial to know the symptoms associated with sleep apnea so that you can properly diagnose your condition.
Some symptoms to be cautious of include loud snoring, morning headaches, disturbed sleep, and occasional waking due to a choking or gasping sensation. If you have strong concerns about having one of the forms of sleep apnea, see a sleep doctor for a professional sleep study. In the meantime, a few home treatments that can help reduce the severity of sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Reducing consumption of alcohol and avoiding sleeping pills, and definitely not mixing the two.
- Quitting smoking. Smoking causes an inflammatory response in you upper airways which can lead to snoring and apnea.
- If you feel like you could lose a few pounds, do it! Take small steps at first, change up your diet, exercise a bit more and build up to lifestyle modification. Excess fat that accumulates in the upper airway can cause collapse of the soft tissue. Reducing your weight will help alleviate the issue by reducing the fat accumulated in the throat.