There are literal mountains of research that show that untreated sleep apnea significantly raises the risk of several systemic health issues, including cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and dementia to name a few. On top of this, a study published in 2019 conducted by Harvard University has proven that sleep apnea can actually cause someone to age at an accelerated rate as well. How did they discover this? How will this affect sleep apnea treatment? Find out in today’s blog.
How the Study Worked
The study looked at 622 adults (roughly half men and half women) with a mean age of 69 and evaluated their sleep quality using an at-home test. What they found was that the higher a person scored on the apnea-hypopnea index, which measures the severity of sleep-disordered breathing, the bigger the disparity was between their biological age and chronological age.
Chronological age is just the number of years a person has been alive, while biological age is determined by looking at someone’s DNA. For all humans, the DNA naturally accrues damage and changes in predictable ways over time, but this study showed that these changes occur much faster when someone has sleep apnea.
Another notable finding was that the rapid aging effect of sleep apnea had a bigger impact on women compared to men, which is interesting because women are considered to have less risk when it comes to sleep apnea.
What This Means
The researchers wanted to see how sleep apnea affected someone on the genetic level, and what they found was that the natural degradation process is sped up when untreated sleep apnea is a factor. This means that the damage caused by sleep apnea doesn’t just affect someone’s energy level or heart, but the problem can go much, much deeper. Fortunately, the specific type of age-related damage the researchers focused on can actually be reversed, and they hope sleep apnea treatment will become another viable way to do so. This means sleep apnea therapy has the potential to play a big role in lowering the risk of chronic, age-related health conditions, therefore increasing someone’s longevity.
How to Recognize Sleep Apnea
Suffice it to say, if you believe that you or a loved one might be suffering from sleep apnea, then treatment should be sought out right away. Here are a few common signs of the condition:
- Loud, chronic snoring every night
- Feeling tired throughout the day despite getting 7-9 hours of sleep
- Waking up in the middle of the night gasping or feeling out of breath
- Morning headaches and/or sore throats
- Sudden weight gain
- Mental fog/problems with focus and memory
By getting sleep apnea under control, a person cannot only protect their health, but according to this study, they can actually slow down the aging process and even reverse it!
About the Author
Dr. Keith Hollinger is an experienced dentist who has completed extensive, specialized training in dental sleep medicine. He offers oral appliance therapy for those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. To learn more about Dr. Hollinger and how he may be able to help improve your sleep and lower your risk of life-threatening conditions, click here to get in touch with him. .