Sleep disorder can cause bone loss

Sleep apnea has been linked to heart attack, stroke, dementia, diabetes and even an early death. And now, new research adds one more risk to the list: osteoporosis.

When you suffer from apnea, you stop breathing in your sleep -- depriving your body of oxygen.

Your bone needs oxygen as much as the rest of your body. When it doesn't get it, your bone can get soft, weak, brittle and thin.

As a result, the new study out of Taiwan finds that sleep apnea can increase your risk of osteoporosis by 270 percent, especially in women (who are already at a higher risk of the condition) and seniors.

Osteoporosis, of course, is more than just weak bone. It means a higher risk of falls, a higher risk of fractures if you do fall and even bone so brittle it can break for no apparent reason at all.

Those broken bones are a major cause of disability and loss of independence in seniors, and in some cases they can even lead to death.

That's why it's critical to take action to protect your bone in any way you can -- so along with bone-building nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, make sure you don't mess around with sleep apnea.

If you have it -- if you even suspect you have it -- get it taken care of.

The most common sign of sleep apnea is heavy snoring followed by periods of total silence. It can happen hundreds of times a night, but you'll never notice it yourself.

Have your spouse keep watch instead, or speak to your doctor about spending a night in a sleep clinic.

If you have the condition, the safest and most effective approach isn't a surgical procedure or an oxygen mask such as a CPAP machine.

It's weight loss.

Most cases of apnea are caused by obesity -- and most cases will ease or even vanish if you lose the weight.