Mild-to-moderate cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) syndrome could increase the risk of hypertension and diabetes, especially in young and middle-aged adults, according to new American research.
The risk of developing hypertension and type 2 diabetes associated with obstructive sleep apnea may not only relate to severe cases of the syndrome, but also mild and moderate cases, according to the findings of an American study presented Monday, June 5, 2017, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Obstructive sleep apnea, which affects 30 million Americans, is considered mild when the number of apneas and hypopneas experienced nightly is between 5 and 15 per hour of sleep. It is considered moderate when the number of apneas and hypopneas is between 15 and 20, and severe if greater than 30.
These pauses in breathing can last between 10 and 30 seconds, sometimes more, and can be repeated several dozen times per hour during the night. The subsequent reduction in oxygen can have consequences on the brain, the heart, the blood vessels and can lead to serious complications like hypertension (high blood pressure).
After studying 1,741 patients for 10 years, researchers from Pennsylvania State University observed that mild obstructive sleep apnea syndrome was associated with a greater risk of hypertension, increasing the risk by four times. Moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome was associated with an almost three times increased risk of developing diabetes.
The findings also showed that these associations were strongest in young and middle-aged adults. This highlights the importance of early diagnosis to avoid such complications, concludes the study.
"Given the stronger association of sleep apnea with metabolic abnormalities in this age group, emphasis should be placed on yearly monitoring of indices of metabolic symptoms and lifestyle interventions, such as weight control, healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management," said lead author, Yun Li, MD.
Medical professionals often use polysomnography tests to diagnose the condition and assess the syndrome's level of severity. This involves the continuous recording and analysis of various parameters relating to an individual's waking and sleep states, and their cardiorespiratory behavior during the night.