Are There Any Unusual Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Twenty-two million Americans suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a serious condition where a person’s breathing stops and starts randomly throughout the night. The condition is marked by loud snoring, and when breathing is interrupted, patients wake up randomly during sleep cycles. Patients are at risk for dangerous blood pressure spikes and stroke, and many must sleep wearing CPAP machines. A 2020 study at the University of Pennsylvania, however, found that reducing tongue fat is a primary factor in lessening the severity of OSA. Dr. Richard Schwab, chief of Sleep Medicine at UPenn, said the discovery of this new risk factor opens up new treatment options, adding that “we have established a unique therapeutic target that we’ve never had before.” Obesity has been a primary factor for developing sleep apnea, and weight loss has shown some improvements. Future research will study which diets best reduce tongue fat, and whether cold therapies can be used to tone up tubby tongues. The study also found that overall weight loss also resulted in a reduction in the size of the pterygoid (a jaw muscle that controls chewing) and the pharyngeal lateral wall (muscles on the sides of the airway).

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      Woman holding a book