Even Moderate Weight Loss Can Improve Sleep Apnea

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Losing just a moderate amount of weight can prevent the progression of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and in some cases even cure the condition, according to a new study from Finland. People who have sleep apnea are more than twice as likely as those who don’t to have diabetes, and 50% of men with Type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night. The disorder affects approximately 18 million people in the United States, and research has shown that the condition is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular death.

Previous studies have shown that weight loss can improve OSA. To determine whether a reduction in weight can prevent OSA from progressing in the long term, researchers looked at moderately obese adults with mild OSA. The participants were assigned to receive either a 12-month supervised lifestyle intervention program or standard care consisting of written and verbal information about diet and physical activity. They were then followed for four years to evaluate the effect of losing 5% or more of their weight on OSA progression.

At the end of the five-year study period, the researchers found that the participants who had successfully maintained at least a 5% weight loss experienced an 80% reduction in their apnea-hypopnea index (a measurement of sleep apnea severity) compared to the group that had not maintained at least a 5% weight loss.

“This study provides long-term evidence that sustained weight reduction can result in significant long-term improvements of OSA in overweight patients and it can prevent the progression of OSA,” noted study author Henri Tuomilehto, MD, PhD, and colleagues.

For more information, read the article “Even moderate weight loss can prevent, cure constructive sleep apnea” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Sleep Medicine. And to learn more about sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes, click here.

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