Researchers in Taiwan have revealed in a new study that people with sleep apnea are more likely to develop osteoporosis. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, followed about 22,000 people for a duration of six years before coming to the conclusion that there was a relationship between the two.
Obstructive sleep apnea patients were 2.7 times more likely to develop osteoporosis as opposed to those who lacked the sleep disorder, and the research study took into account various factors that also influence the likelihood of osteoporosis including age, gender, and medical problems.
“When sleep apnea periodically deprives the body of oxygen, it can weaken bones and raise the risk of osteoporosis,” explains study researcher Dr. Kai-Jen Tien, M.D., of Chi Mei Medical Center. “The progressive condition can lead to bone fractures, increased medical costs, reduced quality of life and even death.”
Sleep apnea is a condition that currently affects over 18 million adults in the U.S. The condition, which is often caused by airways that become blocked during sleep, causes continual, brief interruptions in breathing. In addition to being a contributing cause of osteoporosis, untreated sleep apnea can also raise one’s risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks.
Of the patients studied, women and older individuals with sleep apnea were the groups with the highest likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Female patients were an incredible 8.7 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men in the study, in fact. “We need to pay more attention to the relationship between sleep apnea and bone health so we can identify strategies to prevent osteoporosis,” Tien advises.
There are currently several treatment plans for sleep apnea that vary depending on the severity of the obstruction. Some doctors will advise lifestyle changes for mild conditions, while for moderate to severe cases, it can be necessary to receive surgery or use a CPAP machine while sleeping.