The common denominator between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the teeth, jaws and related structures, and many seemingly unrelated medical conditions, is through what is referred to as “stress” or “the stress (fight or flight) response”.
Stress appears to be associated with all medical conditions in that more stress is worse and less stress is better. Stress may be seen as manic (acute) or depressed (chronic). Psychological terms, including “anxious, angry, annoyed, bored” are used to describe our body’s sense of the “stress response”, which is evidenced by increased levels of adrenaline type hormones in the bloodstream.
During the stress response, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, the heart rate and blood pressure increases. It is a reaction to what is perceived by the body as a threat to life. Foremost is a threat to airflow. An obstructed airway reduces airflow into the lungs and vital oxygen to and carbon dioxide from our cells.
Stress hormones induce rapid breathing, increasing airflow through a narrowed airway, and rapid flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide through our blood stream. These hormones also increase muscle tone to clear airway blockages caused by relaxation of the tongue and associated muscles collapsing into the throat.
During obstructive sleep apnea, the tongue and jaw muscles progressively relax as we move into deeper and deeper sleep stages and restful sleep. This leads to a partially, and often fully, blocked throat, choking us and initiating the stress response.
It has been shown that dental structures, including the size, shape, contours and positions of the jaws and teeth influence the posture and position of the tongue in relation to the throat when awake and asleep.
In prior articles I have referenced how our body compensates for this structural relationship while awake and asleep through:
• Clenching and/or grinding teeth (more often during sleep)
• Posture changes (poor posture while awake and postural changes while asleep)
• Increased adrenaline secreted as in the “fight or flight” response to increase muscle tone and activity support the above actions, breathing, circulation and more.
The “dental complex” has a major structural impact on the threshold that triggers the need for compensation, the amount of compensation or effort needed to keep the body even and in balance. Along with this are other heredity and environmental factors that impact the type, degree and interaction of the various means of compensating. Together they ultimately lead to specific signs and symptoms labeled as particular “dysfunctions” or “diseases”.
Venous insufficiency and varicose veins are medical conditions that affect both women and men in the United States. Venous insufficiency or reflux occurs when the valves of the veins are weakened, damaged, or absent. Normally, veins which carry blood back to the heart against gravity, contain one-way valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards. When the valves weaken, blood collects in the veins and pooled blood enlarges the veins. This increases pressure in the venous (vein) system and leads to varicose veins. Some of the most common factors that contribute to varicose vein formation are:
Family history (“Family Veins”) – Many of the choices we make in life can lead to varicose veins or aggravate them. However, it’s not necessarily your choice or your fault alone – family history is often a factor. If your close relatives have varicose veins, it may only be a matter of time until you develop them too, despite all the good things you may do for your health like not smoking, making sure you eat right and getting regular exercise.
Pregnancy (“Mommy Veins”) – During pregnancy, your body goes through monumental physical and hormonal changes. Most of them are temporary, but your new varicose veins may not be. Pregnancy makes you more susceptible to this health problem because, as your baby grows, the uterus puts increased pressure on your veins. Hormonal changes can also cause the walls of the veins to relax. These factors can combine to cause the one-way valve in one or more veins to stop working properly. As a result, blood that should return to the heart pools and stagnates instead. The result can be the heavy, itchy, uncomfortable feeling of varicose veins.
Your job (“Work Veins”) – If you stand on your feet all day, you may be paying a price – achy, tired, heavy legs caused by varicose veins. Blood in your veins has to fight gravity to return to your heart. Therefore, when you’re on your feet for hours at a time, especially standing in one place, that blood has an even harder time making its way back up through the body. It can flow backwards and begin pooling, and that’s what leads to varicose veins.
Weight problems (“Heavy Veins”) – Being overweight puts added pressure on the entire body – veins included. Increased pressure can cause the veins to enlarge and damage the valves that keep blood flowing toward the heart. Often people with weight problems are not getting regular exercise, which can lead to circulation problems and make varicose veins even worse.
The good news is varicose veins can now be treated with a minimally invasive in-office procedure. It takes less than one-hour to eliminate those painful, heavy, tired, restless or swollen legs. In most cases the patient can go back to work the same day. The simple, easy procedure is achieved by using either radiofrequency ablation or laser ablation of the diseased veins. This procedure is a welcome change from the agonizing vein stripping procedure, which was done in a hospital and required weeks of painful recovery. The procedure is even covered by most insurance plans. Ask your local vein specialist or ask your primary care doctor for a referral and start imagining the ways you could love your legs again.
Ever promise yourself you will stay away from that box of donuts at work and then find yourself eating some? Or feel like you could never eat just one cookie––you have to eat the whole box once you start? Or you get off your diet one day, so you get frustrated and quit dieting altogether? This unforgiving, perfectionistic, all or nothing attitude is really a form of self-sabotage. Because, when it comes to breaking some bad habits or forming some good ones, you can be certain that along the way you will blow it. We all do. A lapse or relapse is an inevitable part of the change process.
Your brain has pathways that follow old familiar routes. To get your brain to reset its fallback position to a new good behavior from your old bad habit can take 6-9 months. It doesn’t matter how many times you begin again, only that you do. And keep at it until that new behavior gets wired into your brain and it becomes second nature.
• Make a commitment to yourself. You don’t argue with yourself over washing your face do you? Well, make healthy eating a part of a commitment.
• Realize that cravings are like waves. They start small, build to a crest, then break and dissolve whether you do anything about them or not.
• Stop thinking of yourself as undisciplined and lacking will power. Start thinking of yourself as a healthy eater and an exerciser in training. And of course while you are in training you develop discipline, self-confidence and skill. Would a person in training pig-out on a box of donuts? No, they would make sure their body got fuel in the form of good nutrition.
• Make your goals measurable, reasonable and in action steps. For example, don’t commit just to lose weight. Rather, commit to “20 minutes of exercise four days a week” or “lose four pounds by the end of April.”
• Put your healthy habits on your daily planner. Literally block out time to go to the grocery store to buy healthy food, to exercise and to get enough sleep.
• Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, healthy or unhealthy. Being self-accountable in writing is one of the hallmarks of successful dieters.
• Acknowledge successes. After you lose ten pounds pat yourself on the back to focus on that accomplishment, not how far you have to go.
• Make healthy behavior routine. The more you make something a part of your everyday life the more you won’t even have to think about. If you start walking on your lunch break––your colleagues and you will know that is what you do over lunch.
And here is how to resist those donuts at work. Simply offer to help a colleague who is struggling to avoid them too. By being a role model, and teaching others healthy eating habits you help yourself. You will be better able to resist “white death” food like donuts and every time you do that you are rewiring your brain and forming a good habit.