The most widespread of the three types of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is estimated that anywhere from twelve to twenty million Americans suffer from one form of sleep apnea or another and to varying degrees. Sleep apnea can be mild, moderate or severe and it is a disorder that left untreated, worsens over time. Approximately four percent of men in the United States and two percent of women are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea on an annual basis.
One recent study looked at the incidence of OSA in individual eighteen years of age and older. The study spanned a five-year period and the results showed that 1.5 percent of people developed a case of this form of sleep apnea every year. Researchers estimate that the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea will increase in the future due to growing rates of obesity in our society.
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight or obese and studies have shown that more and more people overeat and dont get enough exercise on a regular basis. The more an individual weighs, the worse the condition can get as the excess fat puts added pressure on the airways.
Not everyone is aware of the fact that they suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Some people awake during an apnea episode in the night whereas others are completely unaware of the problem until a concerned spouse or family member brings it to their attention. It is believed that an alarming amount of people do not seek treatment for the problem.
It is estimated that only ten percent of those who suffer from OSA actually seek medical intervention and treatment. This is dangerous, because while obstructive sleep apnea is not usually fatal, it can lead to other more serious health problems such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart failure and stroke.
Are You at Risk?
There are some individuals who are more likely to acquire obstructive sleep apnea than others. For example, OSA is more likely to develop in met between the ages of forty and fifty, as opposed to women of those ages. However after the age of fifty, the risk becomes the same for both sexes.
Menopausal women or postmenopausal women are more likely to develop the disorder than are younger women. A very high number of obese people, approximately seventy percent, have obstructive sleep apnea. The more pounds a person packs, on the more prevalent and more serious the disorder becomes. Approximately thirty to fifty percent of those with heart problems suffer from OSA. As far as strokes are concerned, sixty percent of individuals who have sufferered one are also patients of OSA.
As far as race is concerned, those of African-American descent are 2.5 times more likely to develop OSA than are those of Caucasian descent. In India there are 7.5 percent of men who suffer from OSA. Recent studies have identified the fact that 4 percent of Chinese men have OSA and 2 percent of Chinese women do.
This is very close to the percentage for Caucasians in the United States. This is unusual however because the Chinese population tends to be smaller in stature and less likely to be overweight than people in America. For this reason obesity cannot be the only contributing factor in OSA. More studies are being conducted to understand why the percentages between the Chinese and American populations are so similar.