Untreated obstructive sleep apnea could worsen heart health and blood sugar levels

Jack Woodfield
Thu, 15 Jun 2017
Untreated obstructive sleep apnea could worsen heart health and blood sugar levels
Proper treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) could have benefits for the heart and blood sugar levels, according to new research.

People with OSA, a condition more likely to be experienced by people with type 2 diabetes, often suffer interrupted breathing as a result of airways becoming blocked during sleep. Scientists now say that those who do not use CPAP machines, which help keep airways open, could experience declining heart health and blood sugar control.

However, the research team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, say they could not be sure whether their findings applied to people with milder sleep apnea.

Lead author Dr Jonathan Jun said it has been for difficult for researchers to conclude whether obesity increases the risk of sleep apnea, or vice versa. That's why in this study they compared patients who were known to regularly use their CPAP machines, and assessed how this effective their health outcomes.

A total of 31 people with moderate-to-severe OSA were recruited. They spent two nights in the laboratory, using their CPAP on only one of the nights. The researchers collected blood samples from the participants every 20 minutes while they slept.

On the night without CPAP, the patients had low levels of oxygen in their blood, poor sleep and an increased heart rate. Their blood samples showed an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, and fatty acids, while increases were observed in blood pressure and arterial stiffness, indicating a risk of heart problems.

"These were obese patients and patients with relatively severe sleep apnea. They also had other medical problems," said Jun, who added this description could fit many people with OSA who may not use their CPAP and experience the same changes.

Jun concluded that this study "advances that idea that other conditions and not obesity itself are driver of those levels."

The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
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