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Obstructive Sleep Apnea: 5 Self-Care Strategies

Your doctor can help you find a sleep apnea treatment that makes a big difference in how you feel. But you can also do things at home to improve your symptoms. Some of them will even boost your health overall, and lower your chances of getting other medical problems.

Tip 1: Lose Weight if You Need To

Not all people with sleep apnea are overweight or obese, but many are. Weight loss – even a modest amount -- can improve your symptoms.

In one study, 71 people with the disorder got either lifestyle counseling or joined a program that included a 12-week low-calorie diet. On average, those in the diet group shed 16 pounds. After 2 years, sleep apnea was much less severe for them than it was for the people who got lifestyle counseling only.

Another study looked at how weight loss affected obstructive sleep apnea among obese people with type 2 diabetes. The people in the study joined either a weight loss group or a diabetes management group for 1 year. On average, those in the weight loss group lost nearly 24 pounds, while those in the other group lost 1.3 pounds.

The effects of losing weight were even more dramatic in this study. Three times as many people in the weight loss group wound up with no symptoms of sleep apnea at all. And among the people in that group who still had the disorder, it was much less severe after they slimmed down.

Tip 2: Limit Alcohol and Stop Smoking

You already know that smoking and drinking too much alcohol aren’t the healthiest moves you can make. Did you know they can also make your sleep apnea symptoms worse? Cigarette smoking increases the swelling in your upper airway. That can aggravate symptoms like snoring and pauses in breathing.

Alcohol decreases the muscle tone in the back of the throat, which can interfere with air flow -- the last thing you need when you already have breathing problems.

Tip 3: Eat Healthy

This is great advice for everyone. But some research shows that having sleep apnea may mean you're more likely to consider making unhealthy food choices.

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