Nav: Home

Concerns that sleep apnea could impact healthspan

July 27, 2017

The number of people with obstructive sleep apnea has steadily increased over the past two decades. The disorder, which causes a person to briefly stop breathing when asleep, affects over 100 million people globally and is estimated to be undiagnosed 80-90% of the time. Obesity and advanced age, which have been reported as risk factors, are also on the rise. Scientists are concerned because sleep apnea may diminish healthspan by aggravating several cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers in Portugal explore this suspected relationship in an Opinion article published July 27 in Trends in Molecular Medicine.

"In this paper, we try to put together the information that led us to the controversial hypothesis that obstructive sleep apnea accelerates age-related decline, which has promoted debate and stimulated research in the field," says co-author Claudia Cavadas of the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology of the University of Coimbra. "We believe that by treating or stopping obstructive sleep apnea progression, we will not only improve patients' quality of life, but also delay health issues related to aging."

Sleep apnea can strike individuals of all ages, sexes, and body types, but people who are smokers, obese, older, male, or postmenopausal are most at risk. Often mistaken for snoring, sleep apnea patients choke or gasp during sleep when the airway involuntarily tightens. Low oxygen to the brain jolts the person awake in an attempt to normalize blood oxygen levels. The episodes last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur over 30 times an hour. The disorder is commonly treated with a CPAP machine, which pushes air into the airway so that it stays open throughout the night.

Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause several problems associated with poor sleep quality. Patients with the disorder report daytime fatigue, morning headaches, and memory or concentration issues. Emerging evidence also suggests untreated sleep apnea could be connected to more serious age-related diseases such as non-alcoholic liver disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's and Parkinson diseases, dementia, and type 2 diabetes. How sleep apnea is related to these conditions is debated, but Cavadas and her co-authors propose that prolonged disruptions in blood oxygen levels and sleep fragmentation can generate stem cell exhaustion, epigenetic changes, increased inflammation, and other hallmarks of aging.

"Further studies are needed to clearly distinguish between correlative and causal observations in proposed links between obstructive sleep apnea, aging, and age-related disease," they write. "Moreover, the high rates of undiagnosed cases and the low level of public awareness on this disease constitute a barrier that has been difficult to overcome."

The research team is working on the identification of biomarkers that will allow scientists to personalize diagnoses and increase treatment efficiency. "The next step in understanding sleep apnea in the future will be to dissect different subtypes of sleep apnea, likely defined by distinct pathophysiological mechanisms which may underlie different outcomes and predisposition to comorbidities," Cavadas says, "As human life expectancy increases, delaying the onset of age-related diseases becomes critical to our society."
-end-
This work was funded by COMPETE, FEDER, and the National Funds through the FCT - Foundation for Science and Technology.

Trends in Molecular Medicine, Gaspar and Alvaro et al.: "Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Hallmarks of Aging" http://www.cell.com/trends/molecular-medicine/fulltext/S1471-4914(17)30105-3

Trends in Molecular Medicine (@TrendsMolecMed), published by Cell Press, is a monthly review journal that facilitates communication between groups of highly trained professionals who share the common goal of understanding and explaining the molecular basis of disease as it relates to new clinical practice. Visit: http://www.cell.com/trends/molecular-medicine. To receive Cell Press media alerts, please contact press@cell.com.

Cell Press

Related Sleep Apnea Articles:

Losing tongue fat improves sleep apnea
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the effect of weight loss on the upper airway in obese patients, researchers found that reducing tongue fat is a primary factor in lessening the severity of OSA.
More cancer cases among women with sleep apnea
Women with severe sleep apnea appear to be at an elevated risk of getting cancer, a study shows.
New evidence on the association of shortened sleep time and obstructive sleep apnea with sleepiness and cardiometabolic risk factors
A new study in the journal CHEST® may change the way we think about sleep disorders.
Synthetic cannabis-like drug reduces sleep apnea
A synthetic cannabis-like drug in a pill reduced apnea and daytime sleepiness in the first large multi-site study of a drug for apnea.
Inflammation may precede sleep apnea, could be treatment target
Inflammation is traditionally thought of as a symptom of sleep apnea, but it might actually precede the disorder, potentially opening the door for new ways to treat and predict sleep apnea, according to researchers.
Concerns that sleep apnea could impact healthspan
The number of people with obstructive sleep apnea has steadily increased over the past two decades.
Sleep apnea and insomnia combination linked with depression
A new study found that men with sleep apnea and insomnia have a higher prevalence and severity of depressive symptoms than men with sleep apnea or insomnia alone.
Anti-nausea drug could help treat sleep apnea
An old pharmaceutical product may be a new treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, according to new research presented today by University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University scientists at the SLEEP 2017 annual meeting in Boston.
Sleep apnea and insomnia in African-Americans goes undiagnosed
African-Americans with sleep apnea and insomnia are rarely diagnosed with either problem, even when the severity of the two sleep disorders are likely to affect their health, according to new research presented at the ATS 2017 International Conference.
Sleep apnea may increase atrial fibrillation risk
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF), according to new research presented at the ATS 2017 International Conference.
More Sleep Apnea News and Sleep Apnea Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.