By Eugena Brooks
Happy May! Spring is here, and summer is coming. If you are like me, you should be energized by the improving weather and excited to get the summer activities started. Speaking of which brings me to the point of this blog being about the first official event that kicks off the summer season that we all are anticipating Memorial Day weekend.
Before we race off for summer vacations and other activities it is a good time to reflect on those that have lost the battle with sleep apnea and how the rest of us will continue onward. Whatever type of sleep apnea you have it’s a struggle that can be a real killjoy if we allow it to be and could lead to our demise if we ignore it.
I know how daunting it can be as I have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), atrial fibrillation (AFib), congestive heart failure (CHF), immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency and because of all of that I am also morbidly obese.
None the less I am committed to rising above the obstacles because I know two things: I know that if I try I can turn the situation around in my favor; I also know if I don’t try then I will die prematurely. It has happened to Carrie Fisher A.K.A. Princess Leia of Star Wars fame and countless others. I have no illusions and I refuse to let it get me down because of how I foolishly participated in helping the situation along. That’s right. I said it and it’s true.
When my battle began little was known about sleep apnea. I didn’t fit the criteria in any way of the time, so I was not diagnosed. Even though I was having issues with bouts of bronchitis, I let it go. A couple of years later when it occurred to one doctor that maybe sleep apnea might be a possible concern a temporary quick fix was applied, and I was sent on my way assured that all was well, and I let that go.
By the time my health completely crashed another three years later I still didn’t make the connection. In the thick of it no one bothered to tell me much about sleep apnea other than it was the reason I had become a sleepwalker and I was given a machine and told to use it at night and let that go. All the focus was on the other rapidly developing comorbidities that didn’t make sense for a youthful health conscious person like me. I didn’t understand the purpose of the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) so I didn’t really use the machine and I didn’t realize it was antiquated and didn’t work properly.
Eventually I received a CPAP that was both up to date and working. By the time I did and learned my lesson I went from not only having COPD and sleep apnea to all these other life-threatening issues. Meanwhile what I didn’t know — and I guess neither did anyone else — was sleep apnea had always been the driving force influencing the other health issues causing them to develop and become worse. I let all that go without question far too long. So now what I didn’t know or even question has cost me dearly because I didn’t take the situation seriously.
Good News Bad News:
First the bad news is the risk of sudden death increases almost twofold, particularly if you stopped breathing more than 20 times per hour of sleep. If the oxygen saturation level falls below 80 percent, the risk of sudden cardiac death significantly increases during sleep. Death rates triple for sleep apnea sufferers. A study found the more times a person stops breathing through the night the more likely they are to die. As well as causing longer term health problems, the risk of cardiovascular problems and strokes increased. Approximately 38,000 people die every year as a direct result of heart problems linked to sleep apnea issues. Finally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says driving while fatigued accounts for 100,000 car accidents, 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths every year.
The good news is, treatments for sleep apnea including CPAP does lessen the risk and lower the sleep apnea death statistics. In short, one way or another if left untreated properly sleep apnea and its comorbid issues will kill you.
Or you can accept that the struggle is real and fight back. Get tested, consult your physician and use your CPAP. Personally, I am in this to live so my battle will continue as I intend to win this war.