Previous studies have shown that people with sleep apnea are at greater risk for a number of serious health events and diagnoses. Now added to that list is an increased risk of osteoporosis. 

Researchers in Taiwan reviewed the medical records of nearly 1,400 people who received a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) between 2000 and 2008. Over the next six years, the investigators followed this group until a diagnosis of osteoporosis or death, or the end of 2011. 

Compared with more than 20,000 persons without OSA, those with sleep apnea were found to be 2.7 times more likely to develop osteoporosis. 

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The study, reported in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism by Kai-Jen Tien, MD, and colleagues, found the highest risk for osteoporosis in women and in older people with sleep apnea.”Ongoing sleep disruptions caused by obstructive sleep apnea can harm many of the body’s systems, including the skeletal system,” explained Tien in an accompanying statement.

“When sleep apnea periodically deprives the body of oxygen, it can weaken bones and raise the risk of osteoporosis. The progressive condition can lead to bone fractures, increased medical costs, reduced quality of life, and even death.”

In a related report, the results of a 20-year follow-up study revealed a link between moderate to severe OSA and an increased risk of stroke, cancer, and death. 

People suffering from OSA were 4.2 times more likely to die, 3.7 times more likely to suffer a stroke, 3.4 times more likely to die from cancer, and 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer than were those without sleep apnea. 

The findings were adjusted to allow for factors such as body mass index, smoking status, total cholesterol, and blood pressure. The disorder is also associated with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.

As described in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Nathaniel S. Marshall, PhD, and fellow investigators followed 397 adults; 4.6% had moderate to severe OSA and 20.6% had mild OSA. Over the course of two decades, 77 people died and 31 had strokes. There were also 125 cancer events with 39 deaths. Mild sleep apnea was not associated with any significantly increased health risks. 

The FDA has approved a new treatment for persons suffering from moderate to severe OSA. Offering an alternative for people who are unable to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation therapy is a fully implanted neurostimulation device.