Did Gandolfini Have Sleep Apnea?

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. 


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3 thoughts on “Did Gandolfini Have Sleep Apnea?

  1. My sleep apnea was discovered while I was in shelter. I had over 20 years as a broadcast technician, a carrier I loved, gone and did not know why. A bunk mate clued me in to the problem the doctors consistently missed.

    The sleep test showed 52 events an hour with oxygen levels going down to 55%!!! I must have looked like a Smurf. I guess they worry about consciousness around 55% blood oxygen. I can imagine my heart beating like crazy trying to keep up with the widespread expansion of my blood vesicles due to the high carbon dioxide levels in my blood but then being unable to get enough oxygen out of the oxygen starved blood to keep up. That would have been good by me I think.

    Thank God for shelter bunk mates. Now, if we only could get a few doctors better trained!!!

  2. I really don’t understand why doctors ignore or are unaware of OSA. It’s often in the media and yet doctors whom my family and friends see for heart problems and high blood pressure are not offered any OSA analysis.

    I often hear from my untreated-OSA family members that if there really was OSA, their primary physician or cardiologist would have spoken with them about it. High blood pressure, congestive heart failure and stroke runs in my family and no doctor has ever mentioned OSA to me or the others. Of the 3 of us who have sought help for OSA, it was because of our own research and awareness that we asked to have sleep studies.

  3. What would you do if about half of the time you sent a person in a treatment direction you lost the patient forever? What if, of those who stayed, you noted that half of them or so did little better?

    Currently sleep medicine has a very bad attitude toward patients. “You must comply”!!! “Failure to adhere will not be tolerated”!! “You must try much much harder”!! “It is your fault that you failed”!!

    Well looking at long term objective data I do believe that I can say that most give up on CPAP. I can also say that I believe that they were right to do so. While I do know from my own experience that if CPAP therapy is well managed by checking the CPAP data several times a week and then modifying lifestyle and/or the therapy to maintain good results I also know that very very few doctors look at their patients data a couple of times a week and offer the required counseling and/or therapy changes. So successful long term CPAP therapy is by and large a “Do It Yourself” issue totally off the medical beaten to death path.

    I suppose they simply would rather not loose their patients nor see them go through the gauntlet of current Sleep Medicine culture.