New risk linked to sleep apnea
There's nothing scarier than someone who suddenly stops breathing.
Out in public, in a restaurant or a mall, it's the type of emergency that leads to a 911 call.
But it could be happening to you, quietly, at home every night -- and you may not even realize it's going on.
It's a frightening condition I've warned you about before called sleep apnea, and new research finds yet another way it's bad news: It can increase your risk of pneumonia.
Apnea is caused by a blockage in the upper airway. As you gasp for air, you could end up inhaling fluid and other junk floating around in your throat.
When you inhale fluid, it ends up in your lungs -- and fluid in the lungs is a major risk factor for pneumonia, which is why the study finds that apnea will increase the risk of the disease by more than 10 percent.
And the more severe the apnea, the higher the risk climbs, according to the study of more than 34,000 patients.
That's not all apnea can do to you.
Patients with this condition have a higher risk of heart disease, dementia and even an early death.
The biggest problem with apnea isn't treating it. It's diagnosing it -- because most people who have it don't know it. While they may stop breathing for 30, 40, 50 seconds or more at a time, hundreds of times a night, they never wake up.
So they never notice.
All they know is they're not as well-rested as they used to be and maybe have a sore throat and headache in the morning.
If you have a spouse, you can take turns watching over each other at night and listen for the telltale snores followed by the total silence as breathing stops. If you have it -- or suspect it -- a doctor can confirm it with a night in a sleep clinic.
While some doctors offer oxygen masks and even surgical procedures, the best and most reliable cure is weight loss. Apnea is almost always caused by obesity, and losing the extra weight will almost always chase it away.
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