White-collared, globe-trotting executives over the age of 45 need to watch out for sleep apnoea, according to a recent study by the Madras ENT Research Foundation.

Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder marked by disruption in breathing or abnormally low breathing during sleep. This happens when there is an obstruction to the airway, due to excess tissue, large tonsils or an enlarged tongue. This condition can even prove fatal in certain cases.

“Our estimates show that 24 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women above 45 years in the country suffer from this problem,” says Mohan Kameswaran, Managing Director of the foundation.

Those with obesity, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to sleep apnoea. Smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and heavy snoring are other risk factors associated with this disorder. It is common among middle-aged working professionals.

“With intense travelling, they have very little time for physical activity and exercise. They do not maintain a good diet. When you are young, your muscle tone is good. But it slows down after 45,” cautions Kameswaran.

Treatment

There are two kinds of treatment for this: one is through the use of a C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine through which compressed air is delivered to facilitate uninterrupted breathing. Surgical interventions are also available to correct the airway muscles from collapsing when asleep. While these are only short-term solutions, the solution in the long run is maintaining good diet, losing weight and exercising, says Kameswaran.

The Indian Association of Surgeons for Sleep Apnoea, Chennai, is organising a national conference to discuss the disorder and the new surgical techniques. The conference is being held from February 15 to 17, at Hotel Le Meridien, Chennai.

swetha.kannan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 14, 2013)
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