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Obesity linked to dangerous sleep apnea in truck drivers
Date:3/11/2009

Somerville, MA/Providence, RI -- Truck crashes are a significant public health hazard causing thousands of deaths and injuries each year, with driver fatigue and sleepiness being major causes. A new study has confirmed previous findings that obesity-driven testing strategies identify commercial truck drivers with a high likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and suggests that mandating OSA screenings could reduce the risk of truck crashes.

OSA is a syndrome characterized by sleep-disordered breathing, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks, psychomotor deficits, and disrupted nighttime sleep. It increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents, and is common among truck drivers. Approximately 2.4 to 3.9 million licensed commercial drivers in the U.S. are expected to have OSA. In addition to being unrecognized or unreported by drivers, OSA often remains undiagnosed by many primary care clinicians despite the fact that OSA increases the risks of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and heart disease.

Philip Parks, MD, MPH, medical director of Lifespan's employee health and occupational services, is the study's lead author. He worked with researchers at the Cambridge Health Alliance on the study published in the March 2009 edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Parks says, "It is well-known that obesity, a leading risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, is on the rise in the United States. Truck drivers with sleep apnea have up to a 7-fold increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash."

Over the 15-month study period, 456 commercial drivers were examined from over 50 different employers. Seventy-eight (17%) met the screening criteria for suspect OSA. These drivers were older and more obese, and had a higher average blood pressure. Of the 53 drivers who were referred for sleep studies, 33 did not comply with the referral and were lost to follow-up. The remaining 20 were a
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Contact: Nancy Cawley
ncawley@lifespan.org
Lifespan
Source:Eurekalert

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