Toronto: People suffering from sleep apnea appear to be at a higher risk of pneumonia, new research says.

“Our findings show that sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for incident pneumonia,” said Vincent Yi-Fong Su and Kun-Ta Chou from Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan.

“Our results also demonstrated an exposure-response relation in patients with more severe sleep apnea may have a higher risk of pneumonia than patients with sleep apnea of milder severity,” they noted.

Sleep apnea is characterised by disrupted sleep, caused when the upper airway becomes obstructed by soft tissue, cutting off oxygen.

It has been linked to several types of heart disease and cognitive impairment.

To determine whether sleep apnea is linked to the development of pneumonia, Taiwanese researchers followed 34,100 patients for 11 years.

They found that pneumonia was more likely to develop in the people with sleep apnea than in the control group.

The people with pneumonia were older and had more comorbidities such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia and other diseases.

The authors suggest that the higher incidence of pneumonia in people with sleep apnea could be because of increased risk of aspirating contents or liquid from the throat.

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

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