Summary: Despite the lack of formal studies of the number of sleep apnea patients in Texas, the national increase, rise in associated conditions and a growing news presence for the condition in the state do point to an increase.


As Austin residents begin catching up on all of the sleep they missed during SXSW, thousands of people in the city and countless more throughout the state will be having their regular difficulty with restful sleep due to some form of Sleep Disorder Breathing(SDB). There are a number of conditions that make up the SDB lexicon with obstructive sleep apnea(OSA) being the most prevalent. While Texans may want to be winners in any number of categories, OSA is not one of them. However, the question is being asked if OSA is a growing problem in Texas.


Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep and intermittently block a sufferer’s airway.People with OSA can either stop breathing entirely for 10 or more seconds (apneic event), or their breathing can be severely restricted(hypopnea event). These events can happen hundreds of times a night.


In addition to the daytime sleepiness associated with OSA, research shows that long-term risks include increased chance for hypertension/high blood pressure, weight gain, cardiac events and potentially, a higher risk of some cancers.Currently, the most effective method to treatmore serious forms of OSA is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy.


CPAP therapy utilizes a CPAP machine that connects to a tube and a CPAP mask that goes over the user’s nose or their nose and mouth. The CPAP machine keeps the airway open to maintain breathing while the person sleeps by pumping a continuous stream of filtered and slightly humidified air into the breathing passages via the CPAP mask.


Although direct statistics of increased OSA in the state have not been forthcoming, it has been in the newsa great deal in the last couple of years. In 2010, Houston Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak and team members Mario Williams and Antoine Caldwell had surgery for the disorder. Then, Texas Governor Rick Perry was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which several medical professionals said had gone undiagnosed for years or even decades.


More recently, CDC published results from their most recentMorbidity and Mortality Report, which found that 11.1 percent of respondents said that there was not a single day in the previous month where they got enough sleep. The telephone survey was conducted in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

About four percent of U.S. adults said they nodded off or fell asleep at least once while driving in the previous month. Overall prevalence of self-reported falling asleep while driving during the previous 30 days on a state level ranged from 2.5 percent in Oregon to 6.1 percent in Texas. Although researchers have no definitive answers to why Texas

numbers are so high, the hypothesis is that it is due to young people not getting enough sleep and overweight people with sleep apnea.


Interestingly, Texas has become the 10th most obese state in the nation, at 30.4 percent.According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, about 70 percent of people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or obese.


Age may also be a contributing factor to a potential rise in sleep apnea in Texas. For example, Austin has the third largest growth proportion of people over the age of 65. There has been a great deal of research on seniors that show both senior men and women experience a high incidence of SDB.


Unfortunately, there are no formal studies of this age group in Texas as to the direct numbers of seniors with OSA or those using CPAP machines and CPAP masks. However, national statistics that show a rise in obesity and sleep apnea show the greatest increases in young adults and those over 40.


Anecdotally, the CPAP support community website conducted an informal poll of their members to see the number of CPAP masks and machine users. With more than a thousand respondents, more than 50 percent were in their 50’s or 60’s.


As the nation deals with an increase in OSA, most states, including Texas, are sure to see their numbers increasing. There are numerous ways in which people can and do develop OSA with research finding that it is often several physiological underling factors working in conjunctionwith each other. Fortunately, ongoing research and programs arefinding a number of ways to reduce the symptoms of OSA.


The Gold Standard of CPAP Machines and CPAP masks have proven to be the most effective means of reducing apneic events.The good news is that medical research and the intersection of technology continue to improve methods of reducing the effects of OSA so that Texans with the disorder can lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.


Paul is a freelance writer specializing in health and health technology with a strong interest in Sleep Disorder Breathing, OSA and by extension, the technology surrounding CPAP masks and machines. For more information visit The CPAP Shop.

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