Want to avoid hypertension and diabetes? Get your sleep apnoea treated

In young adults, even mild sleep apnoea is strongly associated with a number of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and diabetes.

Sleep apnoea
Sleep apneoa puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure.(Shutterstock)

Many of us dismiss snoring or daytime fatigue as small problems. But if you actually are diagnosed with sleep apnoea (a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts), be careful. Young and middle-aged adults suffering from mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnoea with symptoms such as snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness, may be at an increased risk of developing hypertension and diabetes, researchers say.

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a potentially serious chronic disease that involves the repeated collapse of the upper airway during sleep. The findings showed that mild sleep apnoea in young adults was strongly associated with a risk of developing hypertension by four times.

Similarly, compared to individuals without sleep apnoea, moderate sleep apnoea was associated with the risk of developing diabetes by almost three times.

“Given the stronger association of sleep apnoea with metabolic abnormalities in this age group, emphasis should be placed on yearly monitoring of indices of metabolic symptoms and lifestyle interventions, such as weight control, healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management,” said lead author Yun Li, postdoctoral researcher at the Pennsylvania State University.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including: High blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks. “Early detection and treatment of mild-to-moderate sleep apnoea is warranted in order to prevent future cardiometabolic disease,” Li added.


For the study, published recently in the journal Sleep, the team conducted twin studies involving a sample of 1,741 adults. Participants completed a detailed medical history interview at baseline and were evaluated in a sleep centre during an overnight sleep study. Those without hypertension or diabetes at baseline were followed up after 10 years.
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