Health in a Minute: Sleep Apnea, Helicopter Parenting & More

Q. I have had sleep apnea for several years, and I recently heard that it can lead to atrial fibrillation (afib). Is there anything I can do to decrease the risk of developing afib?

A. Atrial fibrillation is a common clinical problem and the risk increases with age and in those with untreated sleep apnea. Additional risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation include being overweight (BMI >/=27) or obese (BMI>/=30), diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol use (>2 drinks daily for males on average or >1 drink daily for females on average). Making sure you get regular physical activity (30 minutes daily), maintain a normal BMI (</=25), eat a healthy diet, and treat modifiable risk factors including blood pressure, elevated glucose, and abnormal lipids will all lower the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

woman disturbed at her husband's snoring
Picture of Alison L. Bailey, MD

Alison L. Bailey, MD

Chief of Cardiology, Centennial Heart at Parkridge

Q: I have recently been dealing with fatigue and weight gain. I’m a bit worried because Hashimoto’s thyroiditis runs in my family, but my routine bloodwork hasn’t indicated any problems. Is there something else I should do?

A. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the thyroid gland is attacked, leading to reduced function and eventually a dependence on thyroid hormone replacement. Thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPO-Ab) indicates a risk for Hashimoto’s, found in an estimated 16% of women and 8.5% of men. However, many individuals with positive TPO-antibodies have normal thyroid function and do not benefit from taking thyroid hormone. Such patients have a 2-3% yearly risk of requiring thyroid hormone, and will need to have their thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels measured each year. Pregnant women with positive TPO-Ab and normal thyroid function need extra monitoring during and after pregnancy. While attempts to prevent Hashimoto’s have had limited success, some data suggests selenium 100mcg twice daily may offer some benefit. Symptoms of fatigue and weight gain, if the TPO-Ab is negative and TSH is normal, are unrelated to thyroid dysfunction.

illustration of thyroid
Picture of Kathryn Dinh, MD

Kathryn Dinh, MD

Endocrinologist, River City Endocrine

Q: My husband had a bit of a scare with a blood clot that formed in his leg earlier this year. He received treatment before it became a problem and is fine now, but I’m worried that it could happen again. Is there anything he can do to prevent future blood clots?

A. Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a significant vascular disease that can cause dangerous complications including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism, which may lead to long-term disability or even death. If you have experienced VTE, the risks of developing recurring clots or further complications may be higher than those who have not experienced this condition. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to help prevent another episode of VTE or limit the risk of complications. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, regularly exercising, and avoiding smoking are all steps that can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing new blood clots. Additionally, if your doctor prescribes blood-thinning medication, taking it as directed can help reduce the risk of further VTE occurrences. By working with your healthcare provider and following their recommendations, you can take steps to manage your VTE and prevent long-term complications.

Picture of Chris LeSar, MD

Chris LeSar, MD

Vascular/Endovascular Surgeon, Vascular Institute of Chattanooga

Q: I am an anxious mom of two young kids. I try not to be a ‘helicopter parent’, but it’s hard to sit back and let my kids do things on their own. I’m worried that I might end up negatively impacting their confidence or making them fearful … any suggestions?

A. Parenting is hard! There are so many things for us moms in 2024 to be concerned about and worry about. So firstly, you aren’t alone, and here is the kicker: we can do everything in our power to ensure we have safe, healthy, and happy children and we will still make mistakes. We will still negatively impact our children sometimes. We are human. I think once we can understand that we aren’t perfect and we can’t control everything that happens, the second part of our lives can begin. Our kids will fall, they’ll get hurt, and people will be mean to them, but as parents our job is to be there for them and be their safe space when these things happen. When you feel anxious, try taking a moment to check in with yourself and question if it’s your anxiety or if they’re actually in danger – which can often feel like the same feeling.

illustration of helicopter
Picture of Catie Lynch Shockey, LCSW

Catie Lynch Shockey, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Roots Counseling Center

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