Comorbid Effects of Obesity in Children – Sleep Apnea
Childhood obesity is believed to affect approximately thirteen percent of children from six to eleven years of age and fourteen percent of adolescent children age twelve to nineteen years of age. These numbers continue to climb annually, putting these groups of children at risk for type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and even hypertension. Another risk that we fail to remember when considering the comorbid effects of childhood obesity is Sleep Apnea. According to statistics collected by the Surgeon General, Sleep Apnea is another risk of childhood obesity. Sleep Apnea can be serious and even life-threatening if not managed properly.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Characterized by short, involuntary pauses during sleep, Sleep Apnea can happen several times per night. Children who suffer from Sleep Apnea find it hard to get a good night’s rest as with each pause in breathing, the average sufferer will abruptly awake, often gasping for breath.
Without restorative sleep, children with Sleep Apnea are tired and often feel the need to sleep all through the following day. Attention spans shorten and children become more sedimentary. This often leads to a decrease in grades, sports and other activities. While overweight children are at high risk for Sleep Apnea, thin children are not completely safe from this condition.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Obese Children
Often times, the symptoms of Sleep Apnea are overlooked or explained away as children are labeled as attention deficit or hyperactive. Some common daytime symptoms to watch for in children include: hyperactivity, inattention, behavior problems and sleepiness.
Children with night time symptoms of can exhibit the following Sleep Apnea issues: snoring, restless sleep, breathing with only the mouth, pauses in breathing during sleep, and difficulty waking up in the mornings, even after a full night’s rest.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Childhood obesity is not the only cause of Sleep Apnea in children. Common causes can include enlarged tonsils or adenoids and some dental conditions such as a serious overbite while less common causes include tumors or growths obstructions in the airway. Down and Pierre-Robin Syndromes may also cause Sleep Apnea symptoms because of enlargements affecting the jaw and tongue.
Whether child or adult, obstructive Sleep Apnea may cause a bevy of serious and even life threatening complications. Some of these complications include cardiovascular disease and accidents as well as premature death.
It is vitally important for parents of obese children to watch for signs and symptoms of Sleep Apnea – especially labored snoring or pauses in breathing. If any of these warning signs are present, make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss the possible causes and ask for the appropriate medical examinations.
While it is doubtful that your child will need to undergo weight reduction surgery, this is a growing possibility that may be considered. Your pediatrician will help with weighing the options and making an educated decision that is best for the health of your child. One great benefit is that in many cases after weight reduction surgery in children, doctors have found that the body is able to slowly heal itself from several results of obesity.
Lastly, when dealing with obese children, it is important to be attentive to the possible onset of health issues such as Sleep Apnea without singling children out. Always be supportive and use tact as children know when they are obese and need both love and support.
It is no secret that obesity has many comorbid effects that increases the risk of many other medical issues which include: type 2 diabetes mellitus, stroke, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, gout, hyperuricemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, osteoarthritis and certain cancers such as prostate or colorectal cancer in men and breast, endometrial and gallbladder cancer in women. These effects continue with several psychological problems such as depression or binge eating and continue on with social issues such as discrimination and stigmatization which can cripple one’s quality of life.
The most dangerous and most common effect of obesity is hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure or as HTN among medical personnel. Hypertension is often referred to as the secret or silent killer because it works quietly, damaging your body’s normal functions over time, without obvious symptoms. Ignoring your obese condition and allowing hypertension to become a part of your life may lead to a disability, a reduced quality lifestyle, and/or a heart attack which may be crippling or fatal.
The good news is that your obesity does not have to be permanent. There are treatments, lifestyle changes, and weight reduction options to help monitor and effectively control your high blood pressure. Thanks to modern day options such as gastric bypass surgery, there is no reason why your obesity should result in the complications listed below.
Hypertension Causes Arterial Damage
Normally, your arteries are strong, flexible and elastic with a smooth inner lining which aids in supplying your body’s tissues and organs with much needed oxygen and nutrients. Hypertension affects the arteries over time as the increase in blood pressure may cause a variety of problems including the following issues.
Narrowing and Weakening of the Arteries – Hypertension damages the smooth inner lining of your arteries, making them stiff, thick and unable to stretch to meet the needs of increased pressure – leading to a disease called arteriosclerosis. Arterial hardening is usually caused by an unhealthy diet.
Increased Risk of Aneurysms – As blood moves through damaged arteries, the increased pressure can create aneurysms. These are easily described as arterial bulges which have been formed to accommodate the increased pressure. The rupturing of these aneurysms can lead to life threatening and even fatal bleeding.
Hypertension Damages Your Heart
The arteries are not the only victims of hypertension as hypertension can damage your heart as well. Because blood is delivered to your entire body via the heart, high blood pressure can negatively affect your heart in many ways when left uncontrolled and unmonitored.
Coronary Artery Disease – This disease, commonly caused by hypertension, will affect the arteries that deliver blood to the heart. Common symptoms of coronary artery disease include arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), chest pain and heart attack.
Enlarged Heart – This creates a situation where your heart must work harder than it should to perform the necessary and unending function of pumping blood to your body. Hypertension can lead to an enlarged left ventricle – called left ventricular hypertrophy which increases the risks of heart failure, heart attack and cardiac death.
Heart Failure – It is no surprise that the increased pressure can wear your heart down over time, weakening the muscles and causing your heart to fall short on its duties. Eventually, the heart wears out, causing a heart attack.
Hypertension May Damage the Brain
Just like every other area of your body, your brain requires a steady and nourishing supply of oxygenated blood to function and survive. High blood pressure affects the brain in many ways, causing problems such as stroke and other decreased brain functions which have been listed below.
Transient Ischemic Attack – These attacks are commonly called mini-strokes because they are only small, temporary disruptions in blood flow to the brain. Usually caused by atherosclerosis or blood clots caused from high blood pressure, these attacks are to be considered a warning that you are at risk of having a stroke.
Stroke – When your brain is deprived of important oxygen and nutrients, a stroke can occur. Strokes cause death to important brain cells and many times, the effects are irreversible. High blood pressure damages and weakens your brain’s blood vessels due to clotting, narrowing, rupturing or leaking of the heart.
Dementia – Dementia can be caused by two different symptoms of hypertension, vascular dementia which is the narrowing of arteries to the brain or stroke which causes an interruption in blood flow to the brain. The effects of Dementia are often seen with the following brain functions: speaking, thinking, memory and reason, vision and even bodily movement.
Mild Cognitive Impairment – Like dementia, mild cognitive impairment can be the result of blood flow being interrupted or blocked to the brain when hypertension has damaged the arteries.
Hypertension Damages Your Kidneys
While many consider the heart to be the most important organ in the human body, it is the kidneys that regulate blood pressure. The kidneys are also responsible for removing unnecessary or spent nutrients and waste from the blood. These processes can only be done correctly and effectively when your blood vessels are healthy. Hypertension compromises the health of these blood vessels, resulting in damage to the kidneys, including the issues below. The presence of Diabetes can further impact these problems and impair the kidneys.
Kidney Failure – One of the most common causes of Kidney Failure is hypertension due to the fact that high blood pressure damages the arteries leading to and many small blood vessels located within the kidneys. Once damaged, the kidneys can no longer filter waste from the blood effectively which results in the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Kidney Scarring – Another form of kidney damage is referred to as Glomerulosclerosis, or scarring of the glomeruli – tiny clusters of blood vessels within the kidney. This occurs when the kidney cannot filter waste and could result in failure.
Kidney Artery Aneurysm – As mentioned before, an aneurysm occurs on the wall of a blood vessel, creating a bulge due to high blood pressure. Located in an artery leading into the kidney, this is a Renal Artery Aneurysm. This form of aneurysm can cause rupturing and internal bleeding, which can be life threatening or fatal.
The comorbid effects of obesity on your body’s normal blood pressure can be quite staggering. Hypertension can quietly damage the heart and arteries, the brain, and the kidneys – all of which are needed to perform many important bodily functions needed for survival. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise to shed those excess pounds are vital to the health of your body. If you find that these steps are not enough, don’t wait for obesity and hypertension to affect your body negatively, Discuss your options regarding current weight reduction methods such as weight loss surgery with a doctor or nutritionist today.