Salisbury Press

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Healthy Geezer: Sleep apnea, anxiety

Friday, April 26, 2019 by FRED CICETTI Special to The Press in Focus

Q. How can I tell if I’m suffering from sleep apnea?

About 18 million United States citizens have sleep apnea. It’s much more common in older adults and men. Apnea is Greek for “without breath.”

People with sleep apnea stop breathing for as long as 30 seconds at a time. These interruptions can happen hundreds of times a night.

The breathing cessations may wake you and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. These awakenings usually are so brief that you don’t recall them.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

Excessive daytime sleepiness,

Loud snoring,

Observed episodes of breathing stoppages during sleep,

Abrupt awakenings with shortness of breath,

Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat,

Morning headache, and

Problems associated with sleep deprivation such as forgetfulness and mood changes.

About 90 percent of sleep-apnea victims have a windpipe blockage. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax.

These muscles support the soft palate, tonsils, tongue and uvula (which hangs in the back of your mouth). When the muscles relax, your airway is narrowed and breathing is cut off. A blockage can also be caused by a lot of fatty tissue in the throat.

Q. I seem to be anxious more than usual. Is this something that increases with age?

Because the stresses of health problems, losses and and other major life changes build up as we get older, we tend to become anxious. Some surveys suggest that one in five older adults suffer anxiety symptoms that require treatment.

In addition to psychological causes, medical disorders common in older adults can be directly responsible for the anxiety we feel. These include heart disease, neurologic illness, thyroid and other hormone problems. In addition, anxiety can be a drug side-effect. Seniors typically take a lot of medicine.

Anxiety disorders in seniors have been underestimated. One of the main reasons is that older patients are more likely to emphasize their physical complaints and downplay emotional problems.

Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 40 million United States adults. The disorders involve excessive, irrational fear. Anxiety disorders are chronic and can worsen if untreated.

Anxiety disorders are treated with medication and psychotherapy. Both approaches can be effective for most disorders. Anxiety disorders are not all treated the same, so it is important to determine the specific problem first.

Although medication won’t cure an anxiety disorder, it can keep the symptoms under control and enable people to have normal lives.

Q. I seem to pass gas a lot. What’s normal?

For the record, most people pass gas about 10 times each day. Twenty times daily is still considered normal.

Most people produce between one pint and one-half gallon of gas each day.

Oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen from swallowed air make up a large part of gas or “flatus.”

Fermenting foods in the colon produce hydrogen and methane as well as carbon dioxide and oxygen.

The unpleasant odor of some flatus is the result of trace gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, indole and skatole, which are produced when foods decompose in the colon.

We release gas upwardly by belching and downwardly by flatulence. When we swallow air and don’t release it by belching, the air will work its way down and out the rectum. About half the gas passed from the rectum comes from swallowed air.

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All Rights Reserved © 2019 Fred Cicetti

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.