You've probably heard that as you get older, you're at an increased risk for developing osteoporosis, a disease in which the quality and density of your bones are decreased. While women over 65 and men over 70 should get a bone density screening test, if you have additional risk factors—like previous fractures, a family history of fractures, a low BMI, or are a smoker—you should ask your doctor if they recommend getting your bone density tested earlier.
Another, lesser-known risk factor for osteoporosis is having obstructive sleep apnea, according to recent research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). It's those ongoing disruptions in breathing that can harm the body's skeletal system, according to the research findings. When the body is depleted of oxygen (hypoxia) from an issue like sleep apnea, that can weaken the bones. Studies have found that the reason this occurs is that hypoxia can reduce the growth of cells that are important for bone formation (osteoblasts) which can ultimately lead to the bone becoming thinner, eventually developing osteoporosis.
It may come as no surprise then that other diseases where breathing is inhibited and oxygen isn't flowing optimally could also be linked to osteoporosis. Research published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease found that the inflammatory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may have associations with a decreased bone mineral density and impaired bone quality that could lead to fractures in COPD patients. Data has found that osteoporosis is highly prevalent in people who have COPD.
This is a good reminder to mention your concerns about your bone health at your next appointment while discussing your sleep apnea or COPD. By being screened early and getting treatment, you can help prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures while improving overall bone quality.