We know that most people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it. Overall, estimates of undiagnosed sleep apnea show that perhaps 80-90% of people with the condition don’t know they have it. Now a new study suggests that the rate of undiagnosed sleep apnea for seniors could be even higher!
A Large Population-Based Study
For this study, researchers used the data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS). In the NHATS, Americans age 65 and older were given a questionnaire. This questionnaire contained several questions that were similar to the STOP-BANG screening tool commonly used for assessing sleep apnea risk. They looked at the responses seniors gave to these STOP-BANG-like questions to determine their risk of sleep apnea. Then they checked to see how many people had actually been tested for sleep apnea.
They found out that most of the 1052 respondents (56%) were at high risk for sleep apnea. They also found that very few of them had actually been tested for sleep apnea. In fact, only 8% had been tested for sleep apnea. But of those that were tested, 94% were diagnosed with sleep apnea. If the same rate of diagnosis held for the ones that hadn’t been tested, it would mean that about 86% of seniors with sleep apnea remained undiagnosed. This is truly unacceptable. We understand the serious risks of sleep apnea, and we know that it can and should be tested.
All Older Americans Should Be Evaluated for Sleep Apnea
Researchers in this study concluded that we are not doing enough to test older Americans for sleep apnea risk, and we also don’t do enough to follow up on that risk with an actual diagnostic test. Therefore, they recommend that every older American should be screened for sleep apnea, and, when that screening test suggested they might have the condition, it should be tested for using a sleep test that is appropriate. In many cases, this means a home sleep test, although sometimes a sleep lab test is recommended.
Should You Be Tested for Sleep Apnea?
If you are an older American who hasn’t been tested for sleep apnea, it’s time to consider whether such a test might be right for you.
We offer a simple prescreening tool that can help you decide whether you should get a test for sleep apnea. It’s free, and we can look at the results and give you recommendations for how to proceed to protect your health. After all, sleep apnea is associated with elevated risks of all the leading causes of premature death among seniors.