Exercise Helps Men Battling Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

Low fitness level linked to higher risk of death among males with both conditions, study finds

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MONDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- Men who have type 2 diabetes in addition to obstructive sleep apnea seem to benefit from a regular exercise regimen, a new study has found.

Greater endurance from consistent physical activity can significantly boost survival rates for men with both conditions, researchers found. The findings are significant since the prevalence of sleep apnea, which commonly occurs in people with diabetes and high blood pressure, is on the rise, the study authors noted.

"Recent findings suggest that patients with sleep apnea have an increased risk of dying of any cause compared with individuals without sleep apnea," study co-author Dr. Skikha Khosla, an endocrinologist at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and George Washington University, said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.

Good exercise capacity has already been linked to a lower risk of death in patients with type 2 diabetes, Khosla added. The new study, slated to be presented Monday at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Boston, found that there is a similar relationship in men who also have obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that disrupts breathing during sleep.

For the study, researchers analyzed 567 male veterans averaging 62 years of age who completed exercise fitness testing between 1996 and 2010. The men's fitness levels were based on the number of peak metabolic equivalents (METs) they achieved during a stress test (a test that determines how well the heart handles exertion). Men who earned 5 or fewer METs were classified as low fitness. Those who earned more than 10 METs were considered high fitness, and anyone in between was graded as moderate.

After taking other risk factors into account, such as race, smoking and medication use, the researchers found that the risk of death among the men was 13 percent lower for every 1-MET increase in fitness level. Moreover, men in the low-fitness category had a 75 percent higher risk of death than those considered high fitness.

"Although these data are epidemiologic and our patient population was small, the trend we saw in mortality is impressive," said Khosla. She added, however, that more studies are needed to confirm the results.

Although people with sleep apnea should strive to get 150 to 200 minutes of physical activity each week, they should talk to their doctor before starting any exercise program and work towards that goal gradually, Khosla advised.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more on the connection between sleep apnea and exercise.

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