Sleep apnea linked to high blood sugar levels

The severity of sleep apnea is linked to blood sugar levels, according to a new study from the European Lung Foundation.

This suggests that people with diabetes who also have the sleep disorder may have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and early death, researchers reported in the European Registry Journal.

The team analyzed 5,294 participants in the European Sleep Apnea Cohort, recording levels of HbA1c over time. As blood sugar levels rose, so did the severity of participants' sleep apnea, the study found.

Professor Walter McNicholas, study author, said the findings suggest that more physicians should aim to assess for diabetes risk in patients with sleep apnea.

"This is the largest study of its kind showing a link between sleep apnea severity and glucose levels," McNichols said. "Clinicians need to focus on diabetes as an important co-existing illness when treating people with sleep apnea."

Risk factors

A study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago last year reported that women with gestational diabetes are about seven times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. The condition causes brief interruptions in breathing patterns and tends to occur more in people who are overweight or obese. According to the Mayo Clinic, having a thicker neck circumference or naturally narrow throat airways might also be risk factors for developing sleep apnea, in addition to having a family history or being over the age of 60.

McNichols concluded that more research is needed to understand how diabetes and sleep apnea are linked.

"I would also emphasize to patients the importance of weight control as a way to reduce the risks associated with the condition," he said.

Source: European Lung Foundation

Image courtesy of Feelart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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