Sleep apnea linked to higher spine fracture risk in women

Researchers have found that women with a history of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may face a higher risk of spine or vertebral fractures.

OSA is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Risk factors include age and obesity. It’s more common in men. Symptoms include snoring loudly and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep.

Emerging evidence suggests that OSA may negatively affect bone health. No prospective study to date has investigated the association between OSA and fracture risk in women.

“We conducted a prospective study examining the relation between OSA and the risk of incident vertebral fracture (VF) and hip fracture (HF) in the Nurses’ Health Study,” said study authors from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US.

For the findings, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, the investigators examined data pertaining to 55,264 women without a prior history of bone fractures.

According to the researchers, OSA was self-reported in 1.3 per cent of participants in 2002 and increased to 3.3 per cent by 2012.

The study revealed that between 2002 and 2014, 461 vertebral fractures and 921 hip fractures occurred.

Women with a history of OSA had a 2-fold higher risk of vertebral fracture relative to those with no OSA history, with the strongest association observed for OSA associated with daytime sleepiness.

However, the study also revealed that no association was observed between OSA history and risk of hip fracture.

“Our study provides important evidence at the population level that obstructive sleep apnea may have an adverse impact on bone health that is particularly relevant to the development of vertebral fracture,” said study lead author Tianyi Huang of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Given that we used self-reported clinical diagnoses of sleep apnea and fracture in our study, future studies could use more deeply characterized data to further the understanding of the mechanisms linking sleep apnea to bone health and fracture risk,” Huang noted.