The world was saddened to hear about James Gandolfini’s untimely death. The Soprano’s actor was found dead while traveling in Italy. An autopsy reportedly revealed that he suffered a massive heart attack. There’s also lots of speculation that he also may have had undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. We know that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lower your life expectancy by 20 years (he was 51), and can raise your risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke by 2-3 times normal.
We know that 80-90% of people with OSA are not diagnosed. Even when you fit the classic profile of someone with OSA (overweight, middle-aged, male, big neck), doctors in general don’t think about this condition. Most are told they need to lose weight. The problem is that poor sleep due to any reason prevents you from losing weight. It’s an unfair recommendation.
Every day during office hours, I see countless people with classic signs and symptoms of sleep apnea who continue taking their multiple medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and gout. Most snore like trains, but this issue goes unaddressed. In fact, a recent study showed that if you’re an obese woman with diabetes and high blood pressure, you have an 80% chance of having obstructive sleep apnea. (Doctors, since we’re humans too, also have the same risks.)
It’s time for doctors to wake up and help people sleep better, and save more lives.