Regis Philbin, the well-known talk show celebrity, just announced on The View that he is using CPAP for his newly diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. It’s also known that he has heart disease and has undergone heart bypass surgery in the past.
With all the known cause and effect links between untreated sleep apnea and heart disease, it’s appalling that not every person with heart disease is screened for obstructive sleep apnea. Yes, routine overnight sleep studies are cumbersome and expensive, but there are much more convenient and inexpensive ways to screen for people at high risk.
For example, in the long distance trucking industry, certain companies have started routine screening protocols which has been shown to dramatically cut down accident rates and sustained injuries. Unfortunately, not all trucking companies have instituted such policies. Regulatory government agencies are now working on some kind of mandatory screening program.
More recently, both the captain and the copilot of a Hawaiian commuter jet reportedly fell asleep and lost contact with the local air control center for about 20 minutes. The captain was eventually found to have undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.
It would be nice if the celebrities that have obstructive sleep apnea can use their star status to spread the message about the importance of looking for sleep apnea first if you have hypertension, heart disease, or depression.
Rosie O’ Donnell revealed the fact that she’s also on CPAP, and the general public got more educated. If we can get more famous talk show celebrities (Oprah?) to wake up to their undiagnosed sleep-breathing problem, we can save countless more lives.