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Fatty tongue sleep apnoea

If you’ve got a fatty tongue, you might be at risk of sleep apnoea!

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Obstructive sleep apnea is a fairly common problem affecting around 9% of women and 25% of males in Australia. It is a health condition in which your breathing stops momentarily, causing you to wake up momentarily to resume breathing again.

If your sleep is interrupted repeatedly during the night, you will probably wake up feeling tired with reduced energy for the day ahead.

However, the health consequences don’t stop there. If your sleep apnoea is left untreated over time, you may be at risk of much more serious health conditions. Many people with obstructive sleep apnoea may not even be aware that they have the condition and believe that they’ve had a good night’s sleep.

Side effects of sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea can contribute to a higher risk of some pretty serious health repercussions including:

● Higher LDL cholesterol levels
● Lower blood oxygen levels and increased heart rate
● Heart disease
● Higher blood pressure
● Higher blood sugar levels and diabetes
● Depression and other psychiatric/neurological disorders
● Mental confusion, attention difficulties and memory loss
● Breathing difficulties, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma
● Fatty liver disease and liver scarring

What causes obstructive sleep apnoea?

Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when the muscles support areas of your throat relax to the extent that your airways become blocked and prevent normal airflow when you breathe.

The symptoms of sleep apnoea have been linked to large tonsils and a recessed jaw, but the most recognised contributing factor is obesity. Studies have shown that sleep apnoea symptoms can improve with weight loss.

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New study finds that a fatty tongue can block your airways

In January 2020, American researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine published the results from a new study into sleep apnoea. They were able to determine that reducing fat in one specific area of the body was linked to the largest improvement in the symptoms of sleep apnoea – the tongue.

The study measured the impact that reducing fat in the tongue had on opening up airways using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers are now shifting focus to include non-obese patients with fatty tongues who may also be at the same risk of experiencing obstructive sleep apnoea symptoms as obese patients.

Reducing your tongue fat to help improve sleep apnoea symptoms

Since the results of UPSM study were only just published recently, there needs to be more research carried out to work out new therapies that specifically target tongue fat, such as those currently in use to reduce stomach fat.

Reference:
Stephen H. Wang, Brendan T Keenan, Andrew Wiemken, Yinyin Zang, Bethany Staley, David B. Sarwer, Drew A. Torigian, Noel Williams, Allan I Pack, Richard J Schwab. Effect of Weight Loss on Upper Airway Anatomy and the Apnea Hypopnea Index: The Importance of Tongue Fat. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2020; DOI: 10.1164/rccm.201903-0692OC