How being obese can cause a car crash

October 11, 2009


Being overweight to the point of obesity is obviously very bad for your health, but there is now an added complication for all road users, not just sufferers. The UK National Obesity Forum’s seventh annual conference took place last Monday and one of the highlights was the problem of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), as the obesity epidemic increases.

Sleep Apnoea is sometimes regarded as a minor condition with irritating snoring; characterised by disruptive breathing during the night. It occurs when soft tissue in the back of the airway collapses and blocks it, causing interruption in breathing that lasts 10 seconds or more. In its moderate to severe forms, victims can suffer 20 to 30 such episodes per hour all night without realising their sleep is being disturbed. However, new research has now identified it as a fatal disease as at its worst the sufferer can ‘forget’ to breathe during the night with the resulting serious consequences.

We know being overweight is linked to sleep apnoea, but Dr Bertrand de Silva, Medical Director of American Sleep Medicine in California spoke about why it is a problem for road users. Dr de Silva is a world expert in sleep disorders he predicts that only 15% of sufferers have been diagnosed, so despite the dangers, the majority are oblivious that they even have the condition. Because of the disrupted sleep pattern, OSA causes daytime sleepiness and doubles the risk of road accidents

Dr da Silva believes that 25% of UK drivers should wake up to the dangers of being overweight and behind the wheel and his theory is backed up by organisations such as the AA whose Head of Road Safety agrees that the risk of death or serious injury from falling asleep at the wheel is great. Their own research tells them that one in 10 motorists admit to nodding off at the wheel and are in danger of becoming a statistic – one of the up to 3,000 killed or seriously injured each year as a result of falling asleep.

The Risks

Predictive forecasting indicates that by 2050 around 60% of adult men and 50% of adult women could be obese. They will therefore be at risk of OSA and putting themselves, and other road users at risk of an accident.

Being seriously overweight definitely puts you at greater risk of OSA, and that in turn is known to increase the risk of heart conditions by 30%, dramatically increases hypertension, affects 58% of diabetic patient (90% if obese), impacts glucose intolerance and insulin resistance and is the second leading cause of erectile dysfunction.”

If you still need another incentive to lose weight, it could also increase your insurance premiums as the research and scientific evidence grows about the effects of obesity.


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