Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Lower Diabetes Risk

A device used to treat sleep apnea may help people with pre-diabetes reduce their blood sugar levels and prevent full-blown diabetes in the long run, according to a new study.

Patients who used a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device for eight hours during sleep were less likely to develop diabetes than individuals taking an oral placebo, the research found. CPAPs blow a continuous stream of air into the lungs via a tube and face mask and are commonly used to treat sleep apnea.

According to the study, people with prediabetes often have sleep apnea but aren't aware of it.

"Although eight hours of CPAP per night can be difficult to achieve in real-life, our results should provide a strong incentive for anyone with sleep apnea, especially prediabetic individuals, to improve adherence to their treatment for cardio-metabolic risk reduction," said lead study author, Sushmita Pamidi, MD., from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Treatment outcomes

After two weeks, participants who used the CPAP device had improved blood sugar control, better insulin sensitivity, 27 percent lower levels of stress hormone norepinephrine and lower blood pressure than the individuals taking a placebo.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, sleep apnea can have a direct effect on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes, and is also associated with cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and hypertension.

Dr. Esra Tasali, senior author of the study, asserts that more patients with symptoms of pre-diabetes should be screened for potential sleep problems.

"Assessment of sleep apnea should be considered in patients at high risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, since our study shows that treatment of sleep apnea can reduce these risks," Tasali said.

Source: International Diabetes Federation, University of Chicago Medicine

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