What does sleep apnea have to do with obesity? If I'm obese, does that mean I have sleep apnea?
Doctors Answers (3)
Obesity is just one of the risk factors for sleep apnea but it does not automatically mean that sleep apnea is present. It simply means that there is a higher chance of being diagnosed with sleep apnea if you are overweight. Doctors usually look for symptoms of sleep apnea- excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, witnessed episodes of pauses in breathing in sleep among others. Suspicion is higher in obese patients and those with increased neck circumference (larger than 15 inches). With high suspicion and risk factors- a sleep study is the next step.
Obesity and sleep apnea are often related as the tissues in the throat are often enlarged due to deposition of fat tissue. However, the early description of a sleep apnea patient which was always obese is no longer true. While obesity contributes to sleep apnea, hypertension, back pain, diabetes and a multitude of other medical disorders, we find that almost half of the patients with sleep apnea are not overweight. Sleep apnea is related to the ability of the airway to remain open while you sleep. Many obese persons do not suffer from sleep apnea. Maintaining a normal weight is good for everyone.
Having sleep apnea affects your metabolism and can make it harder to lose weight. A thin, 90-pound woman can have sleep apnea. So, you don't have to be obese. If you are a man with a neck size greater than 17" or a woman greater than 16", then there is an increased risk. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should consult with your doctor and begin with a sleep study to diagnose the condition.