Expert to discuss how she overcame sleep apnea

DOWNEY – Are you among the 18 million adult Americans who have sleep apnea?  Most don’t know they have the sleep disorder, let alone that it can lead to having a stroke. or many other life-threatening health challenges.

Tamera Godfrey-Pixton has lost 175 pounds  since 2011 and has improved her health immeasurably.

Tamera Godfrey-Pixton has lost 175 pounds  since 2011 and has improved her health immeasurably.

On Wednesday, July 29 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at Rio Hondo Event Center, noted sleep therapist Tamera Godfrey-Pixton, RPSGT, RST will provide lifesaving information about sleep apnea and what to do if you’re diagnosed with the condition. At a free primary stroke prevention seminar.
She will also discuss the amazing and inspiring story of how she overcame a serious case of sleep apnea by changing her lifestyle choices and losing 175 pounds.

The seminar is sponsored by RTH Stroke Foundation, Rio Hondo Event Center and The Downey Patriot.  Free cholesterol/glucose and blood pressure screenings will be offered.  Cholesterol/glucose screenings are limited, so it’s important to register early.

There are two ways to register: online here or by phone at 888-794-9466.

 “We think very highly of Tamera, not only because of her heroic battle to overcome her personal health challenges, but also because she is a great speaker who can explain the risks of sleep apnea so that everyone in the audience understands,” said RTH Stroke Foundation Executive Director Guy Navarro.

Tamera manages Neurodiagnostic and Sleep Disorder Services at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where she has worked since 2003. She was born and raised in Oklahoma City, where she worked clinically in sleep medicine, research in Narcolepsy treatment, and development of new sleep aid drugs prior to moving to California.  She is an expert on sleep apnea who has battled the disorder both personally and professionally.

Formally known as “obstructive sleep apnea,” sleep apnea is a serious disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain -- and the rest of the body -- may not get enough oxygen.

“Sleep apnea causes a disruption in the sleep cycle – resulting in sleep deprivation,” Tamera said.  “This may lead to hypertension, heart disease, increased risk of stroke, mood and memory problems, impotence, and increased risk of automobile crashes.”

National sleep apnea statistics are disturbing: nearly one in five adults has the disorder.  Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and both sexes.  However there are certain factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea, which include: 

• having a small upper airway (or enlarged tongue, tonsils or uvula) 
• obesity
• having a recessed chin, small jaw or a large overbite
• a large neck size (larger than 17 inches in a man, or 16 inches in a woman) 
• smoking and alcohol use 
• being 40 or older
• having relatives with the disorder
• having Type 2 diabetes (more than 85% of Type 2 diabetics have sleep apnea)

“Many people with sleep apnea commonly seek help because of daytime sleepiness, or snoring which disturbs their bed partner, unaware they have sleep apnea,” Tamera said. Typical symptoms of sleep apnea include:

• Snoring
• Waking up with a dry mouth
• Morning Headaches
• Being excessively tired during the day
• Weight gain
• Sleeplessness
• Difficulty concentrating
• Depression
• Irritability
• Sexual dysfunction
•Learning and memory difficulties
• Falling asleep while at work, on the phone, or driving 

“Left untreated, symptoms of sleep apnea can include disturbed sleep, excessive sleepiness during the day, high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, depression and early death,” Tamera said. “And let’s not forget that an increase in automobile accidents is linked to sleep apnea and drowsy driving.”
So how do you know if you have sleep apnea?  

• Do you snore?
• Have you ever awakened gasping for air?
• Has anyone told you that you stop breathing while you sleep?
• Do you kick or twitch your legs while in bed?
• Do you have difficulty staying asleep?
• Do you feel sleepy or fatigued during the day?
• Do you get morning headaches?
• Are you more than 20 pounds overweight?

If you answered “yes” to more than two of these questions, you may wish to visit a sleep specialist to determine if you have sleep apnea.

“Sleep apnea is common in people with silent stroke,” she said. “Studies have shown that as many as 50 percent of silent stroke patients had sleep apnea.”

“Having more than five sleep apnea episodes per night was associated with silent strokes,” Tamera said. “Of course, early treatment of sleep apnea may help reduce risk of silent strokes.”

She added that people with sleep apnea may also suffer sudden death from cardiac-related causes during the sleeping hours. Celebrities who suffered sleep apnea-related deaths included pro football hall of famer Reggie White and actor John Candy at age 43 and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia at age 53.

Obesity is a major factor in sleep apnea.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of obese American adults (those with a Body Mass Index of 30 or more) has more than doubled since 1980, rising from 15% to 35%, But there is so much more to sleep apnea than just obesity. 

“That’s why it’s important to get information about sleep apnea from someone who understands all aspects of the disorder,” Guy said.  “Wherever she has spoken, Tamera has helped people understand the issues and answers surrounding sleep apnea. 

 “By telling the story of how she turned her life around and answering questions from attendees about their own lives,” Guy said, “Tamera will help those who attend the seminar understand how to make changes to improve their health that will positively impact their lives forever.”