Black Americans with severe sleep apnea and other sleep problems are at increased risk for high blood sugar levels that can lead to diabetes, a new study finds.
The researchers examined sleep patterns and blood sugar, or glucose, of 789 men and women, average age 63, enrolled in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest study of cardiovascular disease in black Americans.
One-quarter of participants had type 2 diabetes 20 percent were taking diabetes medications and 57 percent had been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea but were not being treated for it.
Those with severe apnea had 14 percent higher fasting blood glucose levels than those without sleep apnea, the findings showed. Severe sleep apnea was also associated with higher HbA1c levels. HbA1C is a measure of average blood sugar control over two to three months.
The link between apnea and high blood sugar was stronger in men than in women, the study found. Black men with severe sleep apnea had 10 percent higher fasting blood glucose levels than black women with severe apnea.
Other types of sleep problems — including sleep fragmentation and variability in sleep duration — were also associated with higher blood glucose levels, and the link was strongest in those with diabetes, according to the study published online April 28 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The findings suggest that better sleep may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes in black Americans, whose risk for the disease is higher than that of other groups. However, the study only found an association and could not prove cause and effect.
The researchers concluded that it’s important to screen black Americans for sleep apnea.
“The study underscores the importance of developing interventions to promote regular sleep schedules, particularly in those with diabetes,” said lead author Dr. Yuichiro Yano, an assistant professor of family medicine and community health at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
The study “also reaffirms the need to improve the screening and diagnosis of sleep apnea, both in African Americans and other groups,” Yano said in a news release from the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The American Sleep Apnea Association has more on sleep apnea.
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