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Sleep apnea and snoring in older adults doubles type 2 diabetes risk, study suggests

Older adults with sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), such as sleep apnea, are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a new study finds.
Sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder which occurs when an obstruction prevents air from entering the lungs. This interruption to deep sleep, which can happen many times a night, is regarded as a warning that type 2 diabetes could be developing.
Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, Boston examined the symptoms of SDB in 5,888 participants between 1989 and 1993 who were recruited for the Cardiovascular Health Study. The participants were aged 65 or older, and symptoms of SDB were defined as loud snoring, interrupted breathing during sleep, daytime sleepiness and insomnia.
The participants, none of whom had type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study, had follow-ups conducted for up to 10 years. Fasting glucose levels were measured intermittently, while insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity were tested early in the study.
In 1999, the researchers asked if the participants had experienced any episodes of sleep apnea, if their spouse or roommate had complained about their loud snoring, or if they were often fatigued during the daytime. This was done every six months.
Those who reported snoring, sleep apnea or daytime sleepiness were more likely to have higher fasting glucose levels. People with sleep apnea were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to normal sleepers, while snorers were 27 per cent more likely. However, insomnia symptoms were not associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.
Eve Van Cauter, a sleep and metabolism researcher at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health: “The findings suggest that improving sleep quality in older adults may reduce their risk of developing diabetes or may reduce the severity of diabetes in those who are already affected.
“Monitoring blood sugar levels in older adults with sleep disturbances may help identify individuals potentially at risk to allow earlier interventions [before they develop type 2 diabetes].”
The findings were published in the online journal Diabetes Care.

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