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Did Sleep Medicine Help Boost U.S. Life Expectancy?

Filed in
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • mortality

American Academy of Sleep Medicine  |  Mar 16, 2011
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Life expectancy hit an all-time high in 2009, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An American born in 2009 can now expect to live about 78 years and two months, a two month increase compared to 2008. Only 2.4 million Americans died in 2009, an all-time low and the 10th consecutive yearly decrease. As usual, women (80.6 years) had a longer life expectancy than men (75.7 years).

The CDC speculates that vaccinations, public health measures against smoking and better overall medical treatment for the life span improvements. Sleep medicine may be able to share some of the credit.

Deaths from heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes – three diseases commonly associated with sleep apnea - all decreased in 2009. This raises the question, is an increase in awareness and treatment of sleep apnea contributing to these rates and helping Americans live longer?

Research shows that people with untreated severe sleep apnea are more than twice as likely to die. Even moderate cases increase the overall risk of death by 17 percent.

Diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea may prevent countless deaths from heart disease. The pauses in breathing from untreated obstructive sleep apnea can put enormous strain on your heart. Heart disease risks associated with this include coronary heart disease, heart attack and congestive heart failure.

CPAP and other sleep apnea treatments may also slow the development of diabetes. Sleep disorders that disrupt sleep, including but not limited to sleep apnea increases the likelihood of getting diabetes.

Treatment can also limit sleep loss related to sleep apnea, which is a factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease. CPAP also helps slow the cognitive decline of people with Alzheimer's.

Think you might have sleep apnea? Find out by scheduling an overnight sleep study for diagnosis. it could save your life in the long run and help.

Note: The average life expectancy in the U.S. is still among the lowest of the developed western nations. The National Research Council reports that the heavy smoking in the past five decades has long figured for the slower growth in life expectancy. The national obesity epidemic is expected to offset the eventual gains from the recent reduction in smoking. Excess body weight a primary risk factor for heart disease and diabetes as well as sleep apnea.