The question here is why sleep apnea can be fatal. To answer this you must first understand what the disease is. Sleep apnea is the repeated breaks in breathing while you sleep. It can be as long as a few seconds to more than a minute. The most common causes are excess tissue in the back of the throat or an oversized pallate. Alcohol consumption as well as obesity can and usually does make it worse.
When your body is consantly holding it’s breath and gasping for air this damages the heart. A man who has severe sleep apnea is at a much greater risk of having a heart attack than a man who does not have sleep apnea. The risk of having a massive heart attack is extremely high within 10 years of developing symptoms.
Another way it can cause death is if you are not getting enough sleep this can make you tired at very vulnerable times, like driving a car for example. Sleep is a very important time in a person’s day. It is then that a person recovers from their day, heals during illness and so on. Illnesses can take longer to recover from or worsen if a person does not get the proper amount of sleep.
The most common treatments are followed by a sleep study. You spend the night in a hospital and they record blood pressure, heart rate, how many times you stop breathing and for how long. Depending on the severity of the sleep apnea the doctor may decide to treat with a CPAP machine which is worn at night over the face blowing oxygen into the nose. This is a remarkable machine that gives the person immediate relief from snoring as well. Trust me, the spouse feels that relief as well! If the sleep apnea is severe enough the doctor may decide surgery is the best option. The surgery should be done in steps. The first surgery is to remove excess tissue from the back of the throat. A couple months later the doctor restructures the shape of the pallate and/or cuts some or all of the tonsils out. If these two surgeries do not solve the issue a third more drastic surgery is required. That’s not usually needed though.
Chances are you may not even know if you have it. If your spouse or partner says you snore loudly and/or stop breathing when you are asleep, do everyone a favor and get it checked. It could save your life.