why researchers chose to analyze it, he explains.
The study also controlled for other factors that affect sleep apnea, such as diet and smoking.
About 22 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea — with 80% of moderate and severe cases undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Dr. Seema Khosla, medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep in Fargo, says while some may consider the disorder no more than nuisance snoring, untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure in the lungs, stroke and mental decline, among other health problems. CPAP is the standard treatment and one that Khosla prescribes to her patients.
The new study was timely, according to Khosla, who wasn’t part of the research. A report recently commissioned by Medicare sought to find out whether funding CPAP machines was beneficial, she notes, and the issue had become a point of discussion among sleep specialists.
“We don’t want to miss this potential opportunity to treat our patients right, with something that is, in many cases, very lifesaving and life-altering,” Khosla adds. “Reading this study made me appreciate that people are still looking at this and being really creative about it.”
Future research might include studying whether improving a person’s sleep apnea would have an impact on their other health issues.
Age acceleration can also be caused by smoking, poor diet and pollution, he says.
What isn’t clear is if other treatments for OSA such as drug therapies or surgery would have the same impact CPAP had in this study, Cortese adds.
The researchers also did not examine whether kids with OSA experience the same types of accelerated aging, though CPAP would not be a typical treatment option for patients in that age group.
“I cannot tell you that any other treatment will work the same way at least on the epigenetic deceleration,” Cortese says.
When to see a doctor
To prevent age acceleration and any of the other health problems that are associated with OSA it is important to get screened so that you can get diagnosed and get treated properly. The best way to spot sleep apnea is by paying attention to your symptoms.
The following are symptoms of sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring
- Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Awakening with a dry mouth
- Morning headache
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
Loud snoring may indicate a potentially serious problem, however, not everyone with sleep apnea snores. Additionally, you should ask your doctor about any sleep problem that leaves you fatigued, sleepy and irritable.