Not only does your body begin to look different with age, but it also undergoes a number of physical changes that can cause new health problems to arise. One of the risk factors of aging is sleep apnea. Although any person of any age can develop sleep apnea, it’s a more common problem in age groups. Learn more about how aging contributes to sleep apnea and if your age puts you at a higher risk.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep condition that results in many serious health risks and causes severe health problems in daily life. The condition causes you to stop breathing while you sleep. Since the lack of oxygen alerts your brain, it tells your heart to pump faster and harder; thus putting a strain on your heart health. Although you don’t realize it, you will actually awaken each time you stop breathing throughout the night. This causes you to awaken several hundred times which prevents you from getting a restful night of sleep.

Why is Sleep Apnea More Common in Older People?

There are a few different reasons why sleep apnea is more common in older people and why aging contributes to a rise in sleep apnea diagnosis. To start, there’s an increase in fatty deposits in the parapharyngeal area (the neck and head area). The increase of fatty deposits in this area create a longer soft palate and change the body structure that surrounds the pharynx. This causes obstruction to the airway which causes sleep apnea. According to this study by the American Thoracic Society, there is an 18.1% prevalence of sleep apnea in men ages 61 to 100 years old compared to 11.3% in men ages 65 to 64 years old and 3.2% in men ages 20 to 44 years old.

Not only is sleep apnea more prevalent in aging men, but also women – post-menopausal women who are not on hormone therapy specifically. Weight gain and hormonal changes cause sleep apnea in post-menopausal women.

Sleep Apnea Prevention

To prevent sleep apnea with aging, it’s important to take preventive actions as much as possible. To start, one way to prevent sleep apnea is by maintaining a healthy weight. Excess fat in the upper body can increase the likelihood of airway obstruction. If you are overweight, try to lose at least 10% of your body fat to decrease your risk of sleep apnea. Unfortunately, sleep apnea is not always avoidable. However, taking preventive measures like maintaining a healthy weight, not drinking alcohol in excess and quitting smoking are easy ways to prevent sleep apnea as you age.

If you happen to already have sleep apnea or you need a diagnosis, The Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha can direct you to a physician for diagnosis and then provide you with the right sleep apnea treatment for you. Discuss your options with Dr. Roubal, your Omaha sleep dentist by scheduling an appointment at our dental office. Give us a call at (402) 493-4175 or fill out our online contact form today.