Risk factorsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, certain factors put you at increased risk, including:
- Being overweight. More than half of those with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has obstructive sleep apnea is overweight and vice versa. Thin people can develop the disorder, too.
- Having a large neck. The size of your neck may indicate whether you have an increased risk. A thick neck may narrow the airway and may be an indication of excess weight. A neck circumference greater than 17 inches (43 centimeters) for men and 15 inches (38 centimeters) for women is associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Having high blood pressure (hypertension). Obstructive sleep apnea is relatively common in people with hypertension.
- Having a narrowed airway. You may inherit a naturally narrow throat. Or your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.
- Having chronic nasal congestion. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs twice as often in those who have consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause. This may be due to narrowed airways.
- Having diabetes. Obstructive sleep apnea is three times more common in people who have diabetes.
- Being male. In general, men are twice as likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
- Being black, Hispanic or Pacific Islander. Among people under age 35, obstructive sleep apnea is more common in blacks, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders.
- Being older. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs two to three times more often in adults older than 65.
- Being postmenopausal. A woman's risk appears to increase after menopause.
- Having a family history of sleep apnea. If you have family members with obstructive sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.
- Using alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These substances relax the muscles in your throat.
- Smoking. Smokers are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
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