With over 25 million sufferers, sleep apnea is on the rise in the U.S.  The disease can put you at risk for many health issues, so it’s crucial you keep it in check. Some people who suffer from sleep apnea don't even know they have it; it's only when health concerns pop up do most people learn they're suffering from this far-too-common sleep disorder.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Health?
Not being able to sleep due to this sleep disorder is serious and may be associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even hearing loss. If you catch it early, you could be saving yourself from a host of medical issues later on. Here are 5 reasons to take action now if you're suffering from sleep apnea.
1. Sleep Apnea Leads to Hearing Loss
A recent study suggests there could be a link between sleep apnea and hearing loss.  Most of the participants were not under treatment for sleep apnea, so make sure you’re on top of a plan to control it. If your ears could talk, they might just thank you.
2. Sleep Apnea Weakens Your Bones
Bone turnover is a process that replaces old bone with new growth, essential for maintaining bone health. Normally with this process there aren’t any concerns, but when bone mass is lost, osteoporosis can occur. Sleep apnea, according to recent research, could be a missing link in some causes of osteoporosis.  While it sounds farfetched, the idea is catching on. It could be because “sleep duration and quality, oxygen levels, inflammation” and other health issues impact bone metabolism.
3. Sleep Apnea Affects Your Fitness Levels
Sleep apnea could even be making it more difficult to do the fitness activities you love. A recent study suggests “predicted peak oxygen uptake, a measure of aerobic physical fitness, was significantly lower in people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.”  Since exercising for weight loss is one thing that can help sleep apnea, this news is troubling, to say the least. 
4. Sleep Apnea Speeds Up Kidney Disease
Many sleep apnea sufferers also have type 2 diabetes, a disease marked by too much sugar in the blood.  Sometimes, those with type 2 diabetes can develop chronic kidney disease (CKD), which means the kidneys aren’t working as well. In the case of CKD, sleep apnea could even “accelerate kidney function decline," leading to weaker and weaker kidneys. 
5. Sleep Apnea Raises Blood Pressure
Because sleep apnea can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, this one’s very important.  One recent study suggests sleep apnea could raise your blood pressure even if taking blood pressure medications.  If you have high blood pressure and think you might have sleep apnea, make it a point to talk with your doctor.
One Final Thought
An important thing to remember is that the disease can also have a mental toll, weakening blood flow to the brain and possibly leading to brain damage.  Again, if sleep apnea is affecting you, don't ignore it. Get a sleep study done, and, if deemed appropriate, consider a CPAP machine. There’s recent evidence that suggests airway pressure therapy (usually a CPAP machine) over time can actually reverse the brain damage caused by sleep apnea. 
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Rising prevalence of sleep apnea in U.S. threatens public health. ScienceDaily.
- American Thoracic Society. Sleep Apnea Tied to Hearing Loss in Large Study. ScienceDaily.
- Swanson, C. M. et al. Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Metabolic Bone Disease: Insights Into the Relationship Between Bone and Sleep. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 30 (2).
- Beitler, J. R. et al. Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is Associated with Impaired Exercise Capacity: A Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 10 (11).
- Dobrosielski, D. A. et al. Effects of exercise and weight loss in older adults with obstructive sleep apnea. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 47 (1).
- Investigación y Desarrollo. Poor sleep causes weight gain, susceptibility to diabetes. ScienceDaily.
- American Society of Nephrology. Sleep apnea may contribute to kidney disease progression. ScienceDaily.
- Walia, H. K. et al. Association of Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Elevated Blood Pressure Despite Antihypertensive Medication Use. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 10 (8).
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- Macey, P. M. et al. Global Brain Blood-Oxygen Level Responses to Autonomic Challenges in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. PLoS ONE. 9 (8).
- Castronovo, V. et al. White Matter Integrity in Obstructive Sleep Apnea before and after Treatment. SLEEP.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.