Why Asians Are More At Risk for Stroke

August 5, 2013

I have a number of close Asian friends who snore heavily and likely has undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. Like most people, they don’t want to hear about the dangers of untreated obstructive sleep apnea. Even when one or both parents snore like trains and had heart attacks or strokes at an early age, they refuse to take any action. 

I’ve mentioned before that Asians in general are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea due to a shorter cranial base. The distance from the front of the foramen magnum (hole that the spinal cord goes through) to the junction of the nose and the forehead is smaller compared with Caucasians. This narrows the airway, so pound per pound, Asians that gain weight have a higher chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Here’s another study supporting my thesis: A recent study published in Neurology by researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found that Chinese populations suffered stroke at slightly higher rates compared with Caucasians. 

As Asians adopt more western diets, it’s likely that they’ll gain more weight. Think about the healthcare implications!

Do you have any Asian friends that snore but refuse to seek help?

Another Study Linking Sleep Apnea With Glaucoma

August 1, 2013

Sleep apnea is known to potentially cause high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke and even car accidents. Eye diseases have been associated with obstructive sleep apnea but are rarely mentioned in mainstream media, let alone medical meetings. Here’s a study that found a strong association between untreated obstructive sleep apnea and open angle glaucoma. They adjusted for any other condition that could potentially cause glaucoma, and still found that your risk of developing glaucoma is 1.67 times higher if you have untreated obstructive sleep apnea. 

How many of you who have glaucoma also snore or have obstructive sleep apnea?

Listen to Dr. Park’s Expert Interviews Anytime, Anywhere

July 11, 2013

UnknownI’m happy to announce that all of my past Expert Interviews are now available in podcast format. You can search for Breathe Better Live Better Sleep Better in iTunes or any other podcast player. I would appreciate it if you can rate and leave feedback for my podcast in iTunes. 
I realize I haven’t been writing for you as much lately, but that’s going to change very soon. I have a few major projects in the works to give you much more valuable and useful information to help you breathe better and sleep better. Stay tuned….

Did Gandolfini Have Sleep Apnea?

July 8, 2013

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. 


CPAP Helps Migraine Sufferers

July 2, 2013

Here’s a study that confirms what I already practice—that treating obstructive sleep apnea can help with migraine headaches. In this German study, using CPAP for one year significantly lowered frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines. Medication use and lost work days were also significantly lower. 

Lack of oxygen and the increased stress response that results from repeated breathing pauses at night can cause your nervous system to become overly sensitive. Your muscles can tighten and go into spasm. You can become sensitive to lights, sounds, and become nauseous. If your inner ears are involved, you’ll become dizzy, light-headed, or may have ringing. So technically, you can have a migraine attack in any part of your body that has nerve endings. 

If you’re a sleep apnea sufferer, do you suffer from migraines?


Breast-feeding Linked to Social Status

June 26, 2013

Here’s an interesting study showing that being breast-fed as an infant was associated with a higher social status later in life. While the article gives some very good plausible reasons for this finding, nowhere does it mention the well-known finding by dentists that bottle-feeding can aggravate dental crowding, which can potentially lead to problems breathing at night due to crowded soft tissues within smaller-than-normal jaws. We know that babies that snore have much higher rates of developmental and behavioral problems later as school-aged children. Poor sleep quality can also predispose to weight gain. 

I’m not saying that all bottle-fed babies will develop sleep apnea. However, along with a number of other genetic, environmental and dietary, and behavioral factors, bottle-feeding can significantly increase your risk of developing sleep apnea. Based on what we know about narrowed jaw structures and obstructive sleep apnea, this finding is not surprising. 

More Connections Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep Apnea

June 12, 2013

Mainstream Alzheimer’s research is still focused on genetics and ways of biochemically blocking amyloid plaque buildup. Clinical applications for this model have been mixed, if not disappointing. As I’ve mentioned many times in past posts, articles and interviews, The vast majority of seniors will have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. We know that sleep apnea can cause major brain injury involved in various critical areas, including memory and executive function.

There are more and more studies now coming out that are linking Alzheimer’s and sleep apnea. A recent small study reported finding higher rates of positive biomarkers of Alzheimer’s in seniors for sleep apnea, especially in thinner people. Another article reviews the strong association between intermittent hypoxia (during apneas) on the brain and brain damage. 

I’m glad to see that clinicians and researchers are beginning to address this important issue.

Another New Treatment Option for Sleep Apnea?

May 16, 2013

Theravent looks like another potential new option for snoring, but upon further inspection, looks like technology that’s also found in Provent. These are nasal adhesives that allow you to breathe in normally, but provides partial resistance when you breathe out through your nose. Numerous studies have been published on the effectiveness of Provent for sleep apnea, but I’ve had mixed results in my practice. However, many patients do like them, so I continue to offer these devices. The website for Theravent offers a free trial, so it’s worth looking into if you want to try something different. 

Have you tried Provent or Theravent? Please comment on your experiences.

Lower Melatonin Levels Up Your Risk of Diabetes

April 10, 2013

Here’s another chicken or egg question: Do poor sleep habits cause diabetes and lower melatonin levels, or does diabetes cause lower levels of melatonin? In this study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, having lower levels of melatonin was associated with a higher risk of diabetes. This does not prove that having lower levels of melatonin will give you diabetes, but only an association where directionality is not known. 

One minor detail that’s important to remember is that when darkness stimulates brain neurons to produce melatonin, the signals goes through the cervical sympathetic ganglion, before reaching the pineal gland. A common side effect from any of the high blood pressure medications is that it lowers function of this ganglion, which is involved in the sympathetic nervous system. Blood pressure medications can lower activity of your sympathetic nervous system, which can in theory lower your melatonin levels.

So of you have high blood pressure, by taking blood pressure medications, you could be lowering your melatonin levels, which lead to poor sleep, which can result in weight gain, which can aggravate snoring and obstructive sleep apnea….and we know that obstructive sleep apnea can raise your sugar levels.

This example only shows that the human body can’t be reduced to one single molecule or chemical at a time. We need to look at multiple aspects of our physiology simultaneously.

Heart Disease, Dementia and Sleep Apnea

April 3, 2013

Here’s an interesting study showing that the presence of heart disease may predict dementia better than cognitive tests. This finding is not surprising since we know that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can cause major injury to multiple areas of the brain. We also know that the older you get, the more likely you’ll develop sleep apnea. In fact, based on some recent population studies, more than half of people over 50 had some degrees of sleep apnea. 


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