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Sleep Apnea May Have Contributed to The Death of This Pop Culture Icon

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office has released what they believe to be the cause of Carrie Fisher’s death: "sleep apnea and a combination of other factors."  Known best for her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars franchise, Fisher died on December 23, 2016, four days after experiencing a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles. She was 60 years old.

The tragic death of such a beloved film star brings to light just how serious sleep apnea can be. The problem is, many people don’t realize the dangers. There are more than 200,000 cases a year in the United States alone, but doctors believe many more go undiagnosed.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute defines sleep apnea as

"a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep."

These pauses can occur just a few times each hour or for some patients, hundreds of times per hour. Most people don’t even realize they have sleep apnea because it occurs at night, during sleep. One of the most common symptoms is snoring which is usually just brushed off as annoying but not medically concerning.

If left untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous. It’s the number one cause of daytime drowsiness which can be concerning when it comes to driving and work-related accidents. It increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). It can also increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.

At Dr. Abelar’s office, we take sleep apnea seriously. Many patients avoid seeking treatment due to the traditional, bulky CPAP machines that are the most commonly used therapy. We provide a more comfortable alternative with a custom-made oral appliance similar to a sports mouth guard that keeps the jaw in an optimum position for air flow. For more information about obstructive sleep apnea visit our page here. To schedule an appointment, call our office at 858-866-9692.

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