Evidence of Sleep Apnea Risk Grows – 3 Studies

Most of us are aware that one of the reasons obesity is so harmful is that it contributes to  other serious illnesses. One of these illnesses is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that involves repetitive episodes of upper airway obstruction occurring during sleep. People with OSA usually are chronic snorers, and many be particularly sleepy during the day, or feel like they’re in a “mental fog”. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotence, and headaches. Daytime drowsiness caused by the condition can also contribute to workplace accidents and car crashes.

Now, the results of three new studies add to the risks associated with sleep apnea. A study with 20 years of follow-up found that moderate to severe OSA is independently associated with an increased risk of stroke, cancer and death. People with more severe symptoms were nearly four times more likely to have a stroke, three times more likely to die from cancer, and 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer.

Sleep apnea may also increase the risk of pneumonia, according to a study published in Canadian Medical Association Journal. While for most people pneumonia can be treated at home, the infection can have serious consequence in older adults, babies, and people with other diseases. The authors suggested that the higher incidence of pneumonia in people with sleep apnea could be because of increased risk of aspirating contents or liquid from the throat.

A third study on OSA linked the condition with elevated blood sugar levels. The study involved more than 5,200 people from the multinational European Sleep apnea Cohort. The researchers measured levels of HbA1c, a measurement which allows researchers to gain an understanding of blood sugar levels over a period of time. People with diabetes have higher levels of HbA1c. The result showed that levels of glucose concentration were significantly linked with the severity of sleep apnea, adding to a growing body of evidence supporting the link between sleep apnea and diabetes.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 85 percent of people who have OSA are obese. While symptoms can be somewhat managed through continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, weight loss can greatly improve or even resolve the condition in obese individuals. Weight loss surgery, such as the lap-band, gastric bypass, and gastric sleeve procedures, has been shown to be extremely effective in treating OSA, causing remission in 80 to 85 percent of cases. You can learn more about treating sleep apnea with weight loss surgery here.

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