Weight loss should be first line of defense against sleep apnea

The best way to fight sleep apnea is to lose weight, MedPage Today reported.

In a paper published by the American College of Physicians, researchers reviewed studies published between 1966 and 2012 in order to determine the best ways to address the problem of sleep apnea – a condition in which an individual briefly stops breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to problems ranging from daytime sleepiness to cardiovascular disease, and it is becoming an increasingly large medical issue in the United States due to rising rates of obesity, according to Med Page Today.

Overall, researchers concluded that, “some intensive weight-loss programs may effectively reduce signs and symptoms of (obstructive sleep apnea) in obese patients with or without diabetes."

However, when patients are not overweight or when weight loss interventions fail to relieve apnea, other methods such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) should be attempted, researchers said. Typically, patients undergoing CPAP therapy will wear a mask over their face as they sleep in order to help open their airway.

According to the report, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, if CPAP therapy proves ineffective, the next line of defense should be to use mandibular advancement devices, which adjust the jaw during sleep to help prevent apnea.

Overall, the study showed that medication and surgical interventions were less effective options with unproven or inconsistent results.

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