The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Weight
For many of us, being overweight is an issue that impacts every area of our lives. In some cases, genetics may be to blame, while many of us can attribute our excess weight to our lifestyle choices. No matter the cause, it can be difficult to lose weight, and we often give up our efforts when it requires that we make lifestyle changes we see as too difficult.
If you suffer from sleep apnea in addition to being overweight, there’s another reason you should have weight loss as your goal. Studies show that carrying excess body weight is a major risk factor for sleep apnea. With extra weight often comes extra tissue at the back of the throat which can block the airway, causing snoring and the pauses in breathing associated with sleep apnea.
How Weight Loss Can Help
For those who are overweight or obese, weight loss can be an important tool in treating sleep apnea. Significant weight loss has been shown to virtually cure sleep apnea, but losing just 10% of your body weight can provide an improvement in your symptoms. In general, weight loss has been shown to improve sleep apnea symptoms by up to 58%.
Weight loss can also help reduce your risk of developing many other health issues associated with sleep apnea, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
Make Your Exercise Fun
Consistent exercise can be an essential part of your weight loss efforts. It not only helps you shed excess pounds but also gives you extra energy, boosts your confidence, and helps you sleep better.
Many find that making their exercise enjoyable is the key to sticking with their routine. Try these fun ideas for getting active that may not feel like exercise at all:
- Walk along the beach with a friend, loved one, or your dog
- Learn a new activity such as martial arts or dancing
- Play basketball or another group sport
- Join a hiking group and explore new trails
- Take a yoga or Pilates class
You don’t have to get too extreme with your exercise to see the benefits. Exercising moderately for an hour each day will help improve your overall health and reduce your sleep apnea symptoms.
Change Your Diet to Save Your Life
“Lifestyle changes and weight loss are cornerstones of OSA therapy.” conclude the researchers of a 2017 study that looked at the effects of diet and exercise to manage sleep apnea. In addition to exercise, one of the best lifestyle changes you can make that will lead to weight loss is eating a well-balanced diet.
According to the researchers, following an eating plan like the Mediterranean diet is a great way to combat sleep apnea. This diet, which is rich in foods we love to eat like eggs, nuts, fruits, and veggies, has the added benefit of making you healthier overall. It’s great for keeping your heart healthy and reduces your risk of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
To stick with any diet plan, it’s crucial to find foods and meals that you enjoy eating. Look for new recipes and try healthy foods you’ve never tasted before. Being creative and making it fun will help your new way of eating become a part of your lifestyle, so it feels like something you want to do instead of something you have to do.
Get the Right Sleep Apnea Treatment for You
If you’re already overweight, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and losing weight are great ways to manage your sleep apnea symptoms. However, people who didn’t start as overweight and develop sleep apnea may gain weight, which can make their symptoms worse and cause other health problems to develop.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, whether or not you’re overweight, we encourage you to get the right diagnosis and treatment for your condition. Once you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea, Dr. Ang will evaluate your bite can find the ideal treatment to help alleviate your symptoms. At our practice in Amherst, NH, we offer oral appliances to treat both snoring and sleep apnea, including the Mandibular Advancement Device which is easy to use, small, portable, and custom-designed for your comfort.