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Millions of Americans have undiagnosed sleep apnoea, with the first indication that some are suffering from the condition often being a heart attack or development of heart disease, according to a medical conference this week. Speaking at an event in Colorado as part of the Heart Health Awareness month, Dr. Ross Pacini told an audience that the aim was to improve understanding of the sleep disorder and prevent worst case scenarios by offering early treatment. It is estimated that some 12 million people in the US currently suffer from sleep apnoea, with the complaint going unnoticed for many.
Sleep apnoea occurs when the airway is blocked periodically during the night, resulting in gaps in breathing. Suffers are known to snore and experience the effects of sleep deprivation without a noticeable disturbance in their sleep. These pauses in breathing, which can happen up to hundreds of times throughout a night in some cases, are extremely dangerous to health. Suffering from the condition long-term, as discussed at the Colorado event, can lead to a number of other serious medical problems involving the heart, among other areas.
Generally those who suffer from sleep apnoea are overweight, which is why one of the first recommended preventative measures is losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle. CPAP masks – which distribute a consistent flow of oxygen and maintain the airway during sleep – are another common form of treatment.
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