Although obesity has long been considered to have a hand in sleep apnea, a new study conducted in at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan  suggests that belly fat, also known as visceral or abdominal fat, is associated with a higher instances of sleep apnea in men but not women.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition in which a person stops breathing for a short period of time during sleep. It occurs because the airway has become obstructed, narrowed, or floppy.

The 2013 study included 271 male and 100 female participants who were diagnosed with OSA between 2008 and 2010. Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference were similar in men and women but it was found that men had a greater amount of visceral fat accumulation and more severe sleep apnea.

This finding may provide some explanation for gender differences that are generally observed with regards to the impact of OSA on cardiovascular health and mortality rate. For more information about the study, which was released on May 13, 2013, visit the American Thoracic Society Newsroom.

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