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Sleep Apnea Treatment Could Help Delay Onset of Age-Related Diseases

Sleep apnea affects over 100 million people worldwide, and many researchers believe the disorder is still largely undiagnosed. Two of the most well-known and common risk factors are obesity and advanced age. Researchers in Portugal published an article in the medical journal Trends in Molecular Medicine expressing their concern that as human life expectancy continues to increase, the need for delaying or stopping the onset of age-related diseases becomes more important than ever. The research team believes that sleep apnea is connected to the onset of some of the most concerning age-related diseases.

Scientists believe sleep apnea can shorten the lifespan of a patient because it aggravates cardiovascular and neurological conditions. Increasing evidence shows that untreated sleep apnea, often the result of missed symptoms or misdiagnosis, may be connected to liver diseases, metabolic syndromes, dementia (including Alzheimer’s), Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Researches believe the connection to sleep apnea and some of these diseases and conditions could be related to constantly disrupted sleep cycles and continued interference with blood oxygen levels.

CPAP Works, But Few Patients Comply

The current standard of treatment for patients diagnosed with sleep apnea is the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine. These machines provide a steady level of pressure to the upper airway throughout the night in order to prevent the patient’s upper airways from collapsing during sleep. Other machines, such as a BiPAP machine, use two levels of pressure to keep the airway open.

The machines have proven to be very effective at managing the symptoms of sleep apnea, but the biggest obstacle to this method of therapy is patient compliance. Research from the Medical Research Council at University College London and the Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine shows that compliance with CPAP treatment for more than four hours a night can improve conditions and symptoms of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, an estimated 46 to 83 percent of patients are non-adherent, meaning they use their CPAP machines for less than four hours a night if used at all, according to the Division of Biobehavioral and Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.

An Alternative That Works

Dr. David Buck, DDS, founder of Balance Epigenetic Orthodontics in Seattle, provides patients who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy with an alternative in the form of a medically approved oral appliance.

"The most important part is that our patients are being treated regardless of their preference of treatment options," he said. "We know what the statistics say about untreated sleep apnea as it relates to overall health and very serious complications, so we want to provide our patients with a treatment method they find comfortable to increase the likelihood and rates of compliance."

Dental oral appliances like the one Buck offers in his practice are similar to a sports mouth guard. They are custom fit to the patient’s mouth and worn during sleep. The appliance helps support the jaw in a forward position, which keeps the airway open during sleep.

For more information about sleep apnea treatment, contact Balance Epigenetic Orthodontics at 206-316-8286.

 

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