Did you know that for every five adults in the United States, one has some form of sleep apnea? Even more alarming, 80 percent of these adults with sleep apnea do not even know they have it, and are therefore not treating their sleep apnea. That’ right, only 20 percent of people with sleep apnea are diagnosed, and of those twenty percent, many are non-compliant with their treatment. The takeaway? Only a small fraction of the huge population of adults with sleep apnea are receiving regular, effective treatment for it–a very small fraction.

Sleep apnea is an epidemic, affecting millions of people every single year, and its impact on our health is staggering. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause a host of health complications, including increased incidence of:

  • hypertension
  • stroke
  • heart failure
  • coronary artery disease
  • cardiac rhythm problems
  • type 2 diabetes
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • nocturnal angina
  • neurocognitive difficulties
  • hypothyroidism
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • learning and behavior issues (for children)
  • obesity

Untreated sleep apnea also dramatically increases the risk of fatal motor vehicle accidents. According to an article on pharmacytimes.com, people with untreated OSA are 6 to 10 times more likely to die in a fatal car accident. (Read the article here.) When all is said and done, untreated sleep apnea can take up to 12 years off of life expectancy. Let that sink in for a moment–twelve years, gone. Think of everything that has happened in your life in the last twelve years–the celebrations, the births, the monumental life events, the vacations, the laughter amongst friends, the holidays with family, the little moments in between all of these things that make life so precious. A lot of life happens in twelve years.

When all is said and done, untreated sleep apnea can take up to 12 years off of life expectancy. Let that sink in for a moment–twelve years, gone.

The real kicker here is that there are many effective options to treat sleep apnea available, and they improve every year. CPAP therapy is extremely effective when used consistently, as is oral appliance therapy. Diagnosis has even gotten easier, with at-home sleep testing becoming more readily available (and far more comfortable and affordable than a night at a sleep lab.) Receiving a diagnosis and effective treatment has become much easier, but the problem of untreated sleep apnea remains steady. Why is this?

One of the biggest reasons for this is the lack of information being shared about sleep apnea and its detrimental effects. It’s easier to ignore the symptoms of sleep apnea when you do not understand, or know about, the serious consequences underlying them. If you knew you could save yourself twelve years by taking a sleep test and receiving treatment for sleep apnea, you’d be a lot more likely to take urgent action. Please share information, like this post, with friends and loved ones. Even if you or your bed partner don’t have symptoms of sleep apnea, someone you love might, and sharing this could save their life and their health. Remember, one in five adults in the United States has sleep apnea, and almost none of them are diagnosed or receiving treatment for it. Think of everyone you know–if 100 friends and family come to mind right now, approximately 20 of them could benefit tremendously from this information. If you or your bed partner are suffering from these symptoms, do not ignore them! Consult with a specialist as soon as possible about sleep apnea testing and treatment!

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