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Obstructive sleep apnea, OSA, is more prevalent in men than women, but women have two significant risk factors that may sharply increase their risk. OSA is when an obstruction of the airway causes or contributes to disruptive and non-restorative sleep with potentially severe health consequences.

One risk factor is a high BMI, Body Mass Index. BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can indicate high body fatness. BMI screens for weight categories that could lead to health problems but does not diagnose body fatness or health issues of an individual. There are multiple apps available to help you calculate your BMI, including this one that I like, the BMI Calculator. It’s simple and straightforward. Simply put in your gender, height and weight, and the app gives you your BMI.

If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the Normal or Healthy Weight range. If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the Overweight range. If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the Obese range. BMI is a significant risk factor for people across all categories and is a risk factor that can put women in the same risk category for OSA as men.

The second significant risk factor for women occurs postmenopause. While sleep apnea is more often associated with men, a woman’s risk of having sleep apnea increases after menopause, along with the severity of symptoms. In general, sleep apnea is estimated to occur in one in every ten women and one in four men, but the risk reverses for women postmenopause and exceeds the risk for men.

The pictures below show examples of airways and also point out that, although age and menopause are predicted risk factors, the risk exists among all age groups and that we need to assess all patients for risk.

Regardless of age and gender, obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that severely impacts quality and quantity of life. Treatment of OSA with a dental appliance, known as Oral Appliance Therapy, can be an effective alternative to treatment with a CPAP. Schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your obstructive sleep apnea risk factors and the Oral Appliance Therapy treatment option.