Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious medical condition that often gets overlooked or goes undiagnosed, because people either don’t realize how serious it is, or they don’t know they have it because it occurs during sleep. Unfortunately, leaving sleep apnea untreated can cause it to worsen or, even worse than that, exacerbate a whole host of other conditions, including some cancers, hypertension, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes, just to name a few.
Now, a new study has found another downside to not treating your sleep apnea: accelerated aging. It’s called epigenetic age acceleration, and it occurs when a person’s biological age surpasses their chronological age. This can be caused by environmental factors such as a poor diet or by health conditions. Researchers have found that accelerated aging occurs more often in people with sleep apnea than in people without the condition.
The study, which took place at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, followed a total of 16 adult nonsmokers with OSA, as well as eight control subjects who did not have OSA, over a year. The researchers took baseline blood samples and treated the OSA patients with CPAP therapy at the beginning of the study.
What they found was that the rapid aging among the patients who adhered to their CPAP therapy slowed, while the control group’s aging trends did not.
For those in the group who were administered CPAP, it was noted that they used their CPAP machines for at least four hours each night.
Preventing Epigenetic Age Acceleration
The great news in regard to this study is that you can stop accelerated epigenetic aging with the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Unfortunately, however, many CPAP patients don’t use their machines for the minimum prescribed amount of time, because these machines have a reputation of being uncomfortable, awkward, difficult to operate and difficult to clean. As a result, they are not as effective as other means of treatment.
Thankfully there are other treatment options, including orthotic sleep devices such as the devices custom made by Dr. Garcia. These devices are custom molded to your mouth and prop the airway open manually, without the use of electricity, machinery, forced air or awkward masks.
Another option for reducing epigenetic age acceleration and helping the cessation of sleep apnea symptoms is NightLase, which uses laser technology to tighten loose tissue in the airway. This effectively stops snoring and many of the symptoms of sleep apnea. The treatment can be done without anesthesia or sedation right in Dr. Garcia’s office. It typically takes a few treatments to maximize effectiveness, but treatments are quick (15 to 40 minutes) and require no downtime following the procedure.
While neither of these methods were examined in the University of Missouri study, it goes without saying that a treatment you can stick to is more effective than one you will not. If you don’t use your CPAP machine, it is useless in reducing the speed of your epigenetic aging. This makes treatments such as NightLase and custom sleep orthotics a more viable solution to treating your sleep apnea and reducing the occurence of epigenetic age acceleration.
Other Ways To Prevent Accelerated Aging
If you are concerned about epigenetic age acceleration from sleep apnea, there are things you can do in addition to treating your sleep apnea to help prevent epigenetic age acceleration. Here are a few tips:
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet is a great way to slow the aging process, because by eating a balanced diet you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Look for foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, lean meats and dairy. Be sure to limit your intake of sugar, processed foods and saturated fats.
Exercising regularly goes hand in hand with eating a balanced diet. For healthy adults, you should try to complete at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week, in addition to strength training exercises.
Furthermore, try to maintain a healthy weight, as this will also keep your epigenetic age where it should be.
While a certain amount of stress is inevitable, stress can cause epigenetic age acceleration. Try stress-reduction techniques such as exercising, meditating, deep breathing or any other activity you find pleasurable. If you are unable to alleviate your stress with natural methods, speak to your doctor or mental health professional about other solutions.
Get Some Sleep
When you’re sleep deprived, it can take a toll on your waking hours, and sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea likely encourages epigenetic age acceleration. Treat your sleep apnea so you can get between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
Beware of Dangerous Substances
Avoiding smoking, drinking and illicit drugs is a good idea anyway, but these can also cause epigenetic age acceleration.
With these tips in mind, you can help slow the progression of epigenetic age acceleration. But remember, if you do have sleep apnea, the best way to slow epigenetic age acceleration is by treating your sleep apnea with a viable solution that you’ll actually use.
To learn more about custom sleep orthotics or to schedule a consultation for NightLase, please contact Dr. Garcia’s office today!