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Sleep Apnea: Risk Assessment

An important factor when it comes to a sleep apnea diagnosis is taking a look at one’s risk of developing the condition. There are several initial screening tools used in the diagnosis of the risk of sleep apnea in patients who are experiencing symptoms that may be in line with a sleep apnea diagnosis. The first one is the STOP-BANG screening tool. This screening tool for sleep apnea takes into consideration several risk factors to determine if you may need to take the next step of undergoing a sleep study to determine if you may indeed be suffering from sleep apnea. To use the screening tool, you determine if you answer yes to the following statements:


  • Do you Snore?
  • Do you feel Tired during the day?
  • Do you feel Obstructed when breathing at night?
  • Do you have high blood Pressure?

If you answered yes to two or more of the above, you are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Is your BMI over 28?
  • Are you Aged 50 or older?
  • Is your Neck circumference greater than 17 inches if you’re male or 16 inches if you’re female?
  • Is your Gender male?

The more of these BANG questions you answered yes to the more likely you are to be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea!

Another screening tool called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale helps gauge your risk for sleep apnea by looking at your likelihood of dozing off in a series of situations in your daily life. Let’s take a look:

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    Epworth Sleepiness Scale

    How likely are you to doze off compared to just feeling tired in the situations described below:


    Use this scale when looking at each situation: 

    0: Would never fall asleep

    1: Slight chance of falling asleep

    2: Moderate chance of falling asleep

    3: High chance of falling asleep



    • Sitting and Reading
    • Watching TV
    • Sitting Inactive in a Public Place (such as a theater or in a meeting)
    • Sitting in a Car as a Passenger
    • Laying Down to Rest in the Afternoon
    • Sitting and Talking to Someone
    • Sitting Quietly After Lunch (without alcohol)
    • Sitting in a Car Stuck in Traffic


    Now Add up Your Score

    0-7 Points: Unlikely You Are Abnormally Sleepy

    8-9 Points: Average Amount of Daytime Sleepiness

    10-15 Points: You may be excessively sleepy depending on the situation. You may want to consider seeking medical attention.

    16-24 Points: You are excessively sleepy and should consider seeking medical attention.

    Additionally, you may be at higher risk for sleep apnea if you have pre existing medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.


    Sleep Apnea’s Connection to Diabetes 

    When it comes to diabetes, sleep apnea has an effect on the amount of oxygen your body gets which in turn has an effect on glucose levels and insulin resistance. If you already have diabetes, sleep apnea can make it more of a challenge to manage your diabetes symptoms. The carbon dioxide that increases in your blood when your breathing pauses during sleep can affect blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cause headaches and a higher risk for heart problems. Managing your sleep apnea symptoms will help you better manage your diabetes symptoms and vice versa, so it’s important to stay on top of care for both conditions at all times.


    Sleep Apnea’s Connection to Cardiovascular Health 

    With cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease and irregular heart beats have been found in research to be more common among those diagnosed with a disordered  sleep condition than those without one according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention among other bodies of research. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and globally. Some health conditions increase the risk of heart disease such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity. According to the Sleep Foundation, patterns with sleep apnea are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart arrhythmias and sleep apnea increases the risk of heart failure by 140% and the risk of coronary heart disease by 30%. That’s why it is so important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible and ensure you are staying on top of treatment!


    Sleep Apnea’s Connection to Obesity

    Among all the risk factors for sleep apnea obesity is often considered the most important. Fat deposits in the upper respiratory tract narrow the airway making it hard to breathe. This is why snoring is one of the most common and most obvious symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Excess fat causing increased abdominal girth can also compress a person’s chest wall which can decrease lung volume and diminish air flow making the upper airway more likely to collapse during sleep. As the body mass index rises, so does the risk of OSA. For example, a 10% weight gain is associated with a 6 fold increase in OSA risk according to the Sleep Foundation.