Risk Factors

The Takeaway

  • The major risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea are obesity, a family history of snoring or apnea, and being male.

Adult obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common condition. One frequently cited study suggests that 4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women in the United States have OSA.1 However, this is a conservative estimate, and the number is likely much higher.

Several factors can increase the risk of developing OSA. Some are hereditary; others are the result of age and/or lifestyle. Do any of these risk factors apply to you?

  • Obesity: approximately two-thirds of people with OSA are overweight or obese
  • Family history of OSA or snoring
  • Small lower jaw and certain other facial configurations
  • Male gender
  • Large neck circumference
  • Large tonsils
  • Alcohol consumption at bedtime
  • Post-menopausal (for women)
  • Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone)
  • Acromegaly (high levels of growth hormone)

Risk Factors & Age (00:37)
Dr. Atul Malhotra discusses risk factors of apnea and how they vary with age.

References

  1. Young T, Palta M, Dempsey J, Skatrud J, Weber S, Badr S. The occurrence of sleep-disordered breathing among middle-aged adults. N Engl J Med 1993;328:1230-5.

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This content was last reviewed on February 10, 2011