One of the most common risk factors for sleep apnea is obesity. Being obese can cause fat storage in the throat and tongue, which makes these more likely to collapse and close the airway.

So it’s not a surprise that people with sleep apnea are often recommended to seek out weight loss. Sometimes, this is even forwarded as an alternative sleep apnea treatment. However, without other treatments, this is unlikely to be effective.

Now a new panel of experts in sleep, breathing, weight management, and behavior have assembled some new recommendations for weight loss strategies to help combat sleep apnea.

If You Have Sleep Apnea and a BMI of 25+

People who are overweight in this category should seek out programs that can encourage weight loss. They recommended two different types of programs:

  • Ideally, a person should joint a comprehensive lifestyle program. This is different from usual weight loss programs in that it includes a reduced calorie diet, exercise, and behavioral therapy.
  • If they can’t join a comprehensive program, they should get in some kind of diet and exercise program. It’s best to join this with others, but, if necessary, someone can pursue it on their own with their doctors guidance.

This should be the first step for all patients with elevated weight as well as sleep apnea. The panel recognizes that people with sleep apnea may need additional assistance to achieve weight loss goals.

If You Have Sleep Apnea and a BMI of 27+

For people who have a slightly higher BMI, it is still recommended that you start with one of the programs above. However, if that doesn’t work, and you have no reasons why it would be unsafe, the panel recommends: Weight loss drugs are not considered a frontline approach to weight loss. In fact, people with heart conditions (common in people with sleep apnea) are generally not allowed to attempt this approach.

If You Have Sleep Apnea and a BMI of 35+

Again, you should start with a comprehensive support program of diet, exercise, and counseling. But if that doesn’t work, the panel recommended:

  • Bariatric surgery

It is important to note that studies demonstrate that bariatric surgery is only as effective as the weight loss it achieves. It has no additional benefits for reducing sleep apnea.

Weight Loss Is Good for Life

If you have sleep apnea, you shouldn’t count on weight loss to control it, but it can be a very positive support therapy for your sleep apnea treatment.

As people lose weight, they can see their sleep apnea severity reduced. In addition, they might be able to avoid type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. They can also enjoy an improved quality of life.

If you are looking for comprehensive sleep apnea treatment in Omaha, we can help. Please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.