If you have sleep apnea, it can make you feel older. You lose your energy, your drive, and your zest for life.
It turns out this isn’t just a feeling. It’s a reflection of what’s going on in your body. Two new studies show that sleep apnea can age you significantly faster. However, the news isn’t all bad. Some research suggests that treating sleep apnea can reverse accelerated aging to help you stay young.
Aging Blood Vessels
One of the new studies focuses on aging that you can’t see, although you might feel it, and it’s critical to your health: vascular aging. The blood vessels that connect our heart, lungs, brain, and other organs, our vascular system, can experience specific changes that risk serious cardiovascular complications like heart attack, stroke, and more.
This new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, uses two large European population studies to assess how sleep apnea might affect our vascular age. This gave them a study population of more than 8600 people with an average age of about 60. None of the study participants had cardiovascular disease.
The study didn’t actually test people for sleep apnea. Instead, it used the Berlin Questionnaire to screen them for sleep apnea risk. The population was divided into high-risk and low-risk of sleep apnea groups.
They found that people with a high risk of sleep apnea had effects associated with advanced age, measured by atherosclerosis (hardening) in the carotid arteries. The measures they used are reasonably technical, but they included measures of arterial thickening, stiffness, and arterial plaque buildup.
The thickening and stiffening of arteries are associated with cardiovascular complications like heart attack, stroke, and loss of blood supply to the limbs. The complications can be death, brain damage, or the loss of limbs.
The other new study focused on epigenetic aging. Epigenetic aging looks at biochemical markers of the body’s health, an attempt to find a person’s “true age” in terms of their environmental exposures and overall health. It’s only one measure of age, but one that tells us important information. Think of it as looking at a used car’s odometer and not just it’s model year.
The common epigenetic clock is based on DNA methylation. DNA methylation is a chemical change that happens in our DNA, which can change the ability of certain genes to activate or even be replicated. To some extent, DNA methylation is not just normal–it’s necessary. It helps our body turn off genes it doesn’t need to use anymore.
However, DNA methylation has been linked to numerous health conditions as we get older, such as atherosclerosis, heart failure, and cancer.
For this study, researchers showed that people with sleep apnea had significantly advanced age as measured by their epigenetic clocks. However, the study also showed that it reversed this effect when people adhered to their CPAP treatment. In other words, when people treated their sleep apnea, they didn’t age faster.
Get a Sleep Apnea Treatment You Will Use
The second study highlights both the promise and weakness of CPAP again. The study shows that when people use their CPAP, they could benefit. They saw the accelerated aging effect decrease.
It isn’t just your arteries and DNA that might be more youthful due to CPAP treatment, either. An older study showed that when people used CPAP, they were more likely to look younger and more attractive.
However, the problem is that many people just don’t use CPAP. In every study, like the one on DNA aging, significant numbers of people don’t comply with CPAP therapy guidelines. The treatment is just not right for many people.
Fortunately, there are CPAP alternatives. Oral appliance therapy is likely the best CPAP alternative for most people. It’s proven to be as effective as CPAP for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Plus, it’s very convenient to use. It’s so convenient that almost everyone uses it enough to meet or exceed the guidelines for CPAP use, and nearly 90% use it all night every night.
If you don’t think you will use CPAP, or if you’ve tried CPAP and it doesn’t work for you, oral appliance therapy might be the right choice for treating your sleep apnea. The most important thing is to get a sleep apnea treatment you will use.
Get Sleep Apnea Treatment in Columbus, OH
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are looking for a comfortable, convenient alternative to CPAP, let sleep dentist Dr. Mike Firouzian help. Please call (614) 482-2514 or email Firouzian Dentistry today to schedule an appointment at our office in Columbus, OH.