New research from Taiwanese researchers suggests that sleep apnea sufferers “appear to have” a higher risk of pneumonia. The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, titled “Sleep apnea and risk of pneumonia: a nationwide population-based study“, is reportedly the largest study to examine the pneumonia/apnea link.
According to the an MNT report by Catharine Paddock, PhD, Dr. Vincent Yi-Fong Su, of Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues, selected over 34,000 patients from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database (nearly 7,000 patients with sleep apnea matched to over 27,000 people without sleep apnea) for the study. They followed the participants for 11 years, from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2010, and compared occurrence of pneumonia in the two groups.
“They found the group with sleep apnea had a 1.20-fold increase in incident pneumonia, compared with the group without sleep apnea (9.36% developed it in the apnea group versus 7.77% in the controls),” writes Paddock. “They also noticed that the people who developed pneumonia tended to be older and had more illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia.”
While they did not explore the mechanisms linking sleep apnea with pneumonia, the researchers suggest it could be that people with sleep apnea are more likely to aspirate liquid from the throat into the lungs.
“Another reason could be a weaker immune system, which can result from frequently disturbed sleep,” reports Paddock.