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.