Is Your Sleep Apnea Causing Metabolic Syndrome?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea is caused by obstruction of the upper airway. It is characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep, despite the effort to breathe, and is usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation. These pauses in breathing, called apneas (literally, “without breath”), typically last 20 to 40 seconds.

The individual with OSA is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. It is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). OSA is commonly accompanied with snoring.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders such as increased blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels that occur together increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It affects one in five people, and prevalence increases with age. Some studies estimate the prevalence in the USA to be up to 25% of the population.

A study was undertaken to evaluate the prevalence of obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidemia in people with obstructive sleep apnea(OSA). Two hundred thirty-four patients with an average age of 54 years who tested positive for obstructive sleep apnea were compared to a control group. Patients with OSA had a body mass index on average of 36 and the control group had a body mass index on average of 29. Thirty-one percent of patients with OSA had hyperlipidemia, 59 percent were diabetics and 86 percent had hypertension. Patients with OSA had significant levels of day time sleepiness, lack of concentration, changes in mood, morning headache, and dry mouth. Eighty percent of the patients experienced nonrestorative sleep, awakening with choking, nocturnal dyspnea, insomnia, nocturia and diaphoresis. In conclusion, patients with OSA were almost three times more at risk for obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidemia in comparison to the control group.1

1 Hasan A, Uzma N, Swany TL, et al. Correlation of clinical profiles with obstructive sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome. Sleep Breath. Jan2011.

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