We’ve spent a lot of time here in the Milwaukee area over the past year or so talking about how complications of sleep apnea kill 38,000 Americans each year. At first, people didn’t want to believe it.

But now Dr. Terry Young, professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his colleagues have published the results of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study in an article entitled “Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Mortality: Eighteen-year Follow Up of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort” in the Journal SLEEP.

Almost as important as the results of the study … essentially that those people with untreated sleep apnea are at a greater risk of death from causes such as cardiovascular disease and stroke … was Dr. Young’s comment that “I was surprised by how much the risks increased when we excluded people (from the study) who reported treatment with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).” Dr. Young said the findings suggest that people diagnosed with sleep apnea should be treated, “And if CPAP is the prescribed treatment, regular use may prevent premature death.”

Dr. Young and his colleagues have done a great service to those with undiagnosed sleep apnea. And now it is up to medical professionals and the public to take the next step … get checked for sleep apnea. If you snore at night and are exhausted during the day, take the time to find out. It could save your life.

Steve Gardner