Sleep is the Link: Read David's Story
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After 27 years of marriage, David's snoring was something that his wife Pam was accustomed to hearing.
"I always attributed my trouble sleeping to long hours driving and the energy I was investing in my job," says David. "Other than the occasional nudge from my wife, I didn't think my snoring was a problem.
Snoring can be a key indicator of a sleep disorder, but it's not the roaring sounds that pose a health risk. It's the toll that disruptive breathing takes on your wellbeing that counts — especially your heart health, says Shahid Meer, MD, medical director of RWJ Hamilton's SleepCare Center.
David is one of 12 million Americans with obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition marked by loud snoring, irregular breathing and interrupted oxygen intake.
He became concerned about the potential effects of sleep apnea on his body after Pam noticed his breathing would briefly stop many times a night.
Sleep Linked to Chronic Disease
| David's sleep apnea is now under control. Both he and his wife Pam credit the RWJ Hamilton SleepCare Center for a restful night of sleep.
Research shows a strong link between cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea, says Meer. "Each time breathing stops during sleep, they oxygen level in the blood falls, causing the heart to work harder to circulate the blood. This creates stress on the heart, which leads to an increase in blood pressure and may result in irregular heartbeats, hypertension, heart disease and stroke if it remains untreated."
Studies also show a close link between sleep apnea and diabetes. In fact, adults who suffer from the obstructive sleep apnea are three times more likely to also have diabetes, explains Meer. The link is so strong that many physicians now check for both conditions in patients who seem to have only one.
When David'd physician diagnosed him with type 2 diabetes, he recommended a sleep study. The results showed that David had obstructive sleep apnea.
"You can often tell when someone has obstructive sleep apnea," explains Meer, confirming what Pam witnessed at night. "Breathing is briefly interrupted during sleep. You will hear snoring followed by silence, followed by snoring. The pattern repeats itself often hundreds of time at night.
Treatment Includes Lifestyle Changes
Meer suggests people with sleep disorders change their lifestyle to reduce or eliminate the serious health risks associated with sleep apnea. David's focus on lifestyle changes began by joining RWJ Hamilton's Center for Health & Wellness, where a nurse is a key part of the fitness team.
David received a full assessment upon joining, evaluating his health history — which included diabetes and sleep apnea — and measuring blood pressure, heart rate and body composition. This profile was then shared with his trainer, who developed a program that focused primarily on cardiovascular fitness.
At the time of his sleep study, David weighed more than 200 pounds. Today, by exercising and eating right, David has remarkably lost 50 pounds.
David's medical treatment also includes the use of a CPAP — or continuous positive airway pressure device. The CPAP increases his oxygen intake during sleep, keeping his airway open by gently delivering a stream of air pumped through a small nasal pillow.
The combined effects of the CPAP, diet, and exercise have had a significant impact on David's health and daily living. "I feel great! I've lost weight, my blood pressure is now normal, and I have more energy throughout the day."
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