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 from Brightsurf:

Sleep apnea may be risk factor for COVID-19
The question of sleep apnea as the risk factor for COVID-19 arose in a study conducted by the Turku University Hospital and the University of Turku on patients of the first wave of the pandemic.

Untreated sleep apnea is associated with flu hospitalization
As we approach flu season, adults with obstructive sleep apnea may want to take extra precautions.

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.

Read More: Sleep Apnea News and Sleep Apnea Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.