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Diet and Exercise Improve Sleep Apnea

A new study suggests that losing weight through diet and exercise may have long-term benefits for obese people suffering from  mild sleep apnea. Dr. Henri Tuomilehto, lead researcher at the Oivauni Sleep Clinic in Kuopio, Finland and his colleagues found that mild sleep apnea in obese volunteers who underwent a one-year lifestyle intervention were about half as likely to progress to more severe disease, compared to those who did not improve their health habits.

Sleep apnea is characterized by short interruptions in breathing when the airway collapses or gets blocked while people sleep. This condition is most common among overweight and obese, middle-aged adults and has been linked to cardiovascular problems in its advanced form. Tuomilehto says that it usually takes a few years to progress from mild to severe disease, which is mostly due to weight gain.

The study involved 81 obese adults with mild sleep apnea who randomly assigned to receive either a one-year intervention, which included a very low-calorie meal plan and exercise counseling, or only a few sessions on general diet and physical activity guidelines. Health benefits were associated to the intervention, but it was unclear if the effects would persist after the program had ended.

For the new study, the investigators followed up the participants four years after the treatment was completed. They found that participants in the intervention group had generally succeeded in keeping off about 12 pounds from their original weight while those in the comparison group were heavier by one pound. There were more participants who progressed to moderate (12 versus 6) or severe (2 versus none) apnea in the control group than in the intervention group.


Pittman, G. Exercise, diet may keep sleep apnea from worsening. Yahoo.


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