Obstructive Sleep Apnea Linked to Diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, a new study has a dire warning for you. You could be at greater risk for obstructive sleep apnea, according to a study from the department of health care management at the University of Surrey in Surrey, United Kingdom. After studying data from 1.2 million adults registered in the Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Centre network, the researchers found that patients who were registered as having type 2 diabetes and obesity had the highest rate of obstructive sleep apnea of any of the groups, which included those who were underweight, average or healthy weight, overweight, and obese.

Dr. Randy Sanovich of Dallas treats patients with obstructive sleep apnea in his practice. He says the data from this new study is important, but not surprising.

“We already know that obesity increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea, and we know that it also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes,” he says.

According to Sanovich, however, the most disturbing data collected in the study was the number of people who were undiagnosed.

That’s because obstructive sleep apnea is a silent killer. Statistics show that persons with obstructive sleep apnea are not only more likely to have a heart attack, but also have two to three times higher risk of having a stroke and three times higher risk of premature mortality than those without obstructive sleep apnea.

According to Sanovich, however, the most disturbing data collected in the study was the number of people who were undiagnosed.

“The study says that nearly 5 percent of type 2 diabetics may have sleep apnea – may have. So these are people who could have sleep apnea and not even know it, making it impossible to treat it,” he says.

Sleep apnea is also difficult to diagnose. Sanovich says many patients only get checked for the condition at the urging of family or spouses who notice troubling symptoms while their loved one is sleeping.

“They hear the snoring or the stopping and starting of breathing and naturally they become concerned and urge the patient to see a doctor,” he says.

But what about those who don’t have a partner or family member to notice their sleep apnea symptoms?

“Of course the most important things you can do are to maintain a healthy body weight and stop smoking if you smoke,” he says. “But if you wake feeling unrested or sluggish, or if you know you wake frequently throughout the night – especially if you are diabetic or obese – talk to your doctor.”

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