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Healthwise Maui

Q: How can I help my husband stop snoring?

Dr. David Crow, otolaryngologist: One of the main reasons men come to my office is for snoring — and usually it’s their wife bringing them in. Snoring happens when the soft tissue of the upper airway vibrates. It can be caused by some kind of resistance in the upper airway or by the collapse of tissues in the throat. Narrowing of the upper airway, nasal congestion, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and obesity are all associated with snoring.

There are many things you can do to prevent low-level snoring, including losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping on your side. Treatments that keep the airway open — like nasal sprays for allergies, Breathe Right strips or an oral appliance that pulls your jaw forward — can also help. Some people recommend upper airway exercises, and it never hurts to try.

If nothing else works, surgery can be an option. Depending on the cause of the snoring, a surgeon can straighten the septum, shrink soft tissues in the nose, make the back of the tongue smaller, or reduce the palate.

In more severe cases, snoring can be associated with sleep apnea — a potentially serious disorder in which the person briefly stops breathing during sleep. Surgery can help, and the person may need to use a continuous positive airway pressure machine, commonly known as a CPAP machine, during sleep.

Q: My father and uncle both died of heart attacks in their early 50s. What do I need to do to make sure I don’t meet the same fate?

Colin Lee, interventional cardiologist: A family history of “premature” heart disease is defined as when a close male relative suffers a heart attack before the age of 55, or if a close female relative suffers a heart attack before the age of 65. If one has such a family history, it’s important to see your primary physician to be screened for those risk factors, which may be the basis of that familial predisposition. This should include a determination of one’s lipid profile (including good and bad cholesterol), blood pressure, and to rule out diabetes. Regardless of one’s family history, everyone will benefit from a healthy diet, regular exercise and by not smoking.

Q: My mom recently had a heart attack and needed bypass surgery. What can I do to help her recover and avoid another heart attack?

Colin Lee, interventional cardiologist: Heart attacks and coronary bypass surgery are often the first events that alert patients to the fact that they have heart disease. Once patients are home from the hospital, initiating major lifestyle changes can be enormously helpful in promoting recovery and a heart-healthy future. Changing one’s diet, exercise habits, stopping smoking and taking medications reliably can be very challenging for some but can be a lot easier with strong support from family and friends. Exercise is more fun with company and a healthy diet is good for everyone!

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.