A former international bodybuilding champ who was diagnosed with sleep apnea 10 years ago fielded a range of heavyweight questions during a recent “CPAP Talk – Live!” virtual support session that drew people with sleep issues from eight states. Participants represented all of New England plus Virginia and Maryland.

There was no “heavy lifting” for the erudite “Big Mike” Katz who gained fame for his role in the 1977 “Pumping Iron” documentary starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also briefly played for the New York Jets. Now 70, wherever he goes, the well-rested and jovial Katz takes along his CPAP: “I know the value of a good night’s sleep. But most important, I don’t want to sleep through my grandkids’ childhood–waking up when they’re 16, wondering where the time went,” he says in a release.

Some questions were phoned in, others came via e-mail:

  • A 72-year-old caller, also a former football player and weightlifter, talked about his need to cut back on his exercise routine. Something Katz knows a lot about—he suggested that the caller, with his doctor’s OK, should continue his training program with lighter weights but more reps, perhaps 15-20. “Set a realistic bar so you don’t allow failure, and don’t rest. Keep up a circuit cardio weight training routine,” said Katz, a personal trainer who still vigorously works out. “The key: Less rest between exercises. Make it more aerobic.”
  • Another participant asked if sleep apnea can be cured. Host Eric Cohen, president of National Sleep Therapy, replied that factors that change, such as weight loss, can improve the condition, but CPAP is a treatment, not a cure. Cohen said, “It’s critical to resolve your apneas, regularly check your sleep records, and stay in touch with your sleep doctor.”
  • One questioner wanted secrets to getting comfortable with her sleep apnea regimen and equipment. Cohen, a trained engineer who has invented products for the sleep industry among others, said, “For some folks, it’s not easy getting used to the CPAP mask and machine. Whatever the difficulty, there is a variety of headgear and masks. You need to try until you find the right fit. It’s worth the effort.”
  • A 64-year-old Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress syndrome said he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since age 18: “I’ve used CPAP for 5 years but I still can’t go through a full night’s sleep and I’m always tired.” Katz suggested the caller see his doctor for pressure adjustments based on his CPAP device’s data readings. Katz said, “My machine’s pressure has been adjusted many times and my sleep company has recalibrated the CPAP machine when called for.” Cohen added that “there may be other factors impacting sleep. This is very common and something you should see a sleep specialist about.”

The well-rested Katz is an engaged grandfather and a trainer who owns five fitness centers. He also travels extensively to judge bodybuilding competitions. The retired health education teacher described how chronic fatigue forced him to have a sleep test, which showed he had sleep apnea: “I learned I was having almost 50 apnea episodes per hour and my oxygen levels were dropping dramatically.” His doctor prescribed CPAP therapy.

The free “CPAP Talk Live!” program, held on the first Wednesday of each month from 7 to 8 PM ET, is open to individuals who use CPAP for sleep apnea or other sleep issues, healthcare professionals, and anyone else interested in the topic. For more information: call (888) 867-8840, e-mail [email protected], or visit cpaptalklive.com.