Sleep apnea undiagnosed among obese type-2 diabetics

WASHINGTON - Although sleep apnea has been associated with obesity, the disorder is widely undiagnosed among obese individuals with type-2 diabetes, says a recent study.

Nearly 87 percent of study participants reported symptoms, but were never diagnosed. Untreated sleep apnea doesn’t just mean their sleep is disrupted. Existing research shows it can also spell an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

‘The high prevalence of undiagnosed, and therefore, untreated sleep apnea among obese patients with diabetes constitutes a serious public health problem,’ said Gary Foster, co-author and director of the Centre for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, who led the research.

The new study, called Sleep AHEAD, looked at 306 obese patients with type-2 diabetes already enrolled in the Look AHEAD trial, a 16-site study investigating the long-term health impact of an intensive lifestyle intervention in 5,145 overweight or obese adults with type-2 diabetes.

Each participant had a sleep study (polysomnogram) that measures various breathing and brain activity during sleep. Participants also filled out questions about symptoms related to sleep (snoring, sleepiness during the day), and had their weight, height, waist and neck circumferences measured.

Researchers found that 86.6 percent of participants had sleep apnea, yet reported never being diagnosed. More than 30 percent had between 16 and 20 episodes per hour where they would stop breathing, and 22 percent had more than 30 episodes per hour, considered severe sleep apnea.

Most of these also had a larger waist circumference, which researchers found, along with higher BMI (body mass index), to be significantly associated with sleep apnea, said a Temple release.

Obesity has long been known to be associated with sleep apnea, but researchers say that these findings are alarming. Currently, more than half of obese or overweight individuals have diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the US.

These findings are slated for publication in the June issue of Diabetes Care.

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