Sleep Apnea Linked to Faster Aging

Sleep apnea and other sleep-breathing disorders can cause a host of problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Now a new study by researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston has added accelerated aging to the list.

Researchers, who published their results in the April 12 journal Sleep, used a sleep study to evaluate the rest of 662 adults. Participants were monitored for breathing patterns, oxygen levels in the blood, heart rate, arm and leg movements, and brain waves. Researchers also measured DNA methylation, a marker for epigenetic age acceleration, according to a June 8 article in Psychology Today.

“People’s biological age might not be the same as their chronological age,” said Xiaoyu Li, lead author and postdoctoral research fellow in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Individuals whose biological age is higher than their chronological age exhibit age acceleration or fast aging. In our study, we found that more severe sleep-disordered breathing is associated with epigenetic age acceleration. Our data provide biological evidence supporting adverse physiological and health effects of untreated sleep-disordered breathing.”

But there is good news. Sleep apnea is treatable and the changes in epigenetic aging are reversible, the article said.