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Sleep apnea is one of the most pervasive sleep disorders in the world, affecting as high as an estimated 40% of adults. For millions of people with sleep apnea, CPAP machines are the only way to get a good night’s sleep. The CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure machine, is a device which provides a gentle flow of air through a face mask or nasal cannula. CPAP devices have changed countless lives for the better through helping people get better sleep, but now a new study reports that CPAP use could even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in some people. Will CPAP use become more widespread outside of treating sleep apnea?

The study was reported at this year’s annual conference of the American Thoracic Society, a nonprofit organization which seeks to improve care and diagnostic methods for various pulmonary diseases, severe illnesses, and sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnea. Researchers reported that aggressive sleep apnea treatments in patients who also displayed symptoms of prediabetes appeared to lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

To reach this conclusion, researchers tracked the health data of 39 prediabetic patients who had obstructive sleep apnea for fourteen days and nights. Researchers tracked daytime resting heart rate profiles, and those pre-diabetic patients who treated their sleep apnea each night with CPAP devices were found to have much lower heart rates over the trial period. Lead researcher Esra Tasali, MD, of the Sleep Research Center at the University of Chicago calls this study “a first step in demonstrating that optimal treatment of sleep apnea reduces cardiovascular risk in those with prediabetes.”

It makes sense that CPAP would lower the risk of cardiovascular disease given the established links between sleep apnea and more serious health complications. However, CPAP use has also been found to improve glucose metabolism. Is there some hidden link between sleep apnea and diabetes?

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