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This is not about a special offer for neckwear, or dress shirts, although these days it seems the popular casual look in shirts for men makes being aware of neck size almost obsolete. But neck size for most men and women is much more of a concern for lifestyle and health, than it is for clothing.

Necks and Sleeping, Not Necking

Whether or not “necking” is in your lifestyle, neck size does matter in your bed–for sleeping conditions that is. It turns out that there is research that has shown a positive correlation between neck size and the likelihood of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that is more common today than one might think. Sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing during sleep, or shallow breaths while you sleep, resulting in poor quality of sleep–all of which makes you tired, exhausted, and/or excessively sleepy during the daytime when you need to be alert.

According to research more than half of people with obstructive sleep apnea are either overweight or obese., In Chapter 6 you learned that “obesity” is determined by a BMI index of 30.00 or above. And research has also shown that neck circumference is also correlated with BMI and sleep apnea. Men with a neck circumference above 17 inches and women with a neck circumference above 15 inches also have an increased risk of developing or having obstructive sleep apnea.

Official Concerns for Neck Size

Because of regulations from the motor carrier safety administration, the Department of Transportation requires neck size and BMI measurements as a rule to certify truck drivers. Of course, you may not be a truck driver, but that does not mean you are out of the loop for neck size importance– or else that loop could be a potential noose for your health! Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed, so neck size is not only important to the DOT, but for you also to note your potential for having sleep apnea and your need for further screening.

Neck Size Revelations and Regulations

For the DOT, if you do have a neck circumference above 17 inches for a male or 16 inches for a female, you must be tested for sleep apnea by a medical examiner–an overnight visit. And for everyone else, you should speak to your health professionals about a similar sleep study. The medical examiners for DOT are assessing individual’s medical fitness to determine if there are any safety risks. For others, those “neck numbers” could indicate your risk for sleep apnea.

Bigger is Not Better in the Bedroom

Research studies has found that men with neck circumferences more than 16.3 inches have a positive correlation to suffering from erectile dysfunction, or ED. The study tested more than 90 men between 40 and 60 years of age and found that those with the larger neck measurements were more apt to have problems getting an erection.

Another study from the University school of medicine in Ankara, found that men with wide necks–measuring 16.3 inches or more– were more likely to have metabolic syndrome. This is a combination high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. And the researchers also concluded from that, the wide circumference in men might also predict ED in those that have metabolic syndrome.

Sleep Apnea Studies

There have been numerous studies relating to neck circumference and sleep apnea, as well as to diabetes and hypertension. These include a research study in sexual medicine at St. Mary’s hospital in Paddington which reported that a larger neck circumference has a high correlation to sleep apnea, and one published in the journal of pediatrics that revels a wide neck circumference is associated with sleep apnea, diabetes and hypertension.

The idea of measuring circumference to determine body fat has normally been determined by a measurement around the waist. Researchers have explained that this calculation can be difficult because determining where to measure is an issue–does the waist measurement come under or over the fold in obese people? However, determining a neck measurement can be easier to obtain. Additionally, many researchers believe that BMI has flaws in accuracy in measuring body fatness, and that neck circumference can be a better indicator of overweight or obesity and having better clues to body fat composition.

How the Neck Affects Breathing Down the Neck

Research has shown that neck size is useful in determining the risk for sleep disorders including snoring and sleep apnea. It happens because with a large neck circumference there can be tissue crowding along the airway, and the throat, and when the airway is narrowed, it can be prone to collapsing– which causes hypopneas or snoring. In some individuals, a wide neck can completely close off the airway causing sleep apnea.

The weight of the neck tissue itself might also cause the soft airway to collapse. When the airway is narrowed, that makes it more difficult for air to pass through the throat and to the lungs. And when there is not a clear path, and the air has to squeeze through– that is heard as snoring or wheezing. And if the airway is totally blocked, there is a silent period followed by a strong gasping for air.

Necks and Hearts

A research report by Framingham heart study researchers revealed that men with a neck size greater than 16 inches present a greater risk for heart disease. Supporting this, the American heart association cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention conference presented a report describing that neck circumference is associated with heart disease and hypertension risk.

Where Would Your Head Be Without Your Neck?

To measure the neck, wrap a measuring tape around the neck, beginning at about one inch from the meeting of your neck and shoulders, which may coincide with the bottom part of your Adam’s apple.

If your measure shows an unfavorable number, you might consider what one Award winning TV critic and columnist had said, “I was size 23 and my neck was restricting my breath. I learned that flour pound for pound has as many calories as sugar, so when I was eating pasta I was basically eating cake, and so I got on a macrobiotic diet and got myself an exercise bike, and worked on losing some neck in order to keep breathing!”

Tips and Takeaways

  • There is a strong correlation between neck size and obesity
  • There is a strong correlation between neck size and sleep apnea
  • There is strong correlation between neck size and the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other “metabolic” conditions
  • A wide neck circumference can make breathing difficult, asleep or awake!
  • Taking steps to reduce neck width can lower these risks, and improve health
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