October 23, 2010

Sleep Apnea, Prevention and Healthcare reform

I am actually old school when it comes to certain things. I like to wear lapel pins on my jacket. Most of the time I wear a shiny metal pin with the association's logo. Recently I started wearing one from the Partnership for Prevention. Their pin says

It would be great to be able to prevent sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea is associated with a number of life-threatening condition all of which put a drag on the healthcare system.

So, preventing sleep apnea is all about the three-legged stool -
diet, exercise and sleep.
I believe that without getting the right quantity and quality of sleep - diet and exercise won't happen.

If you aren't getting enough sleep (seven and a half hours or more) and enough of the right quality sleep (stage 3 or deep and REM or dream) - then it will be almost impossible to control what you eat and have enough energy to exercise.

Practicing good sleep hygiene is one preventive measure that can insure getting enough sleep and the right kind sleep.

Unfortunately, sleep apnea is reality, an epidemic really, so preventing it by insuring people get enough sleep will require a shift in public policy concerning the value of sleep that will require a generation or two.

For those who develop sleep apnea, what does effectively treating sleep apnea mean, beyond eliminating the snoring. It could improve or mitigate certain types of heart disease and diabetes and depression and ADHD in children and even alzheimer's in older adults.

Bending the cost curve, an important component of healthcare reform, could be accomplished, in part, by recognizing sleep apnea early, before it has done serious damage. Damage that ends up costing the healthcare system, including us - lots of money.

The ASAA wrote the USPTF and requested they consider adding screening for sleep disordered breathing to their Guide for Preventive Services. If they would add some like the STOP BANG questionnaire, developed by the anesthesiologist community to screen patients prior to surgery for sleep apnea, who knows how much money could saved in healthcare cost.

I started this blog post with the lapel pin from the Partnership for Prevention

and will end with saying that sleep health is a critical component to an effective prevention strategy. Every dollar spent on understanding, promoting, encouraging healthy sleep will be returned in happier, healthier, more productive people.

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