Sleep apnea may increase risk of heart disease and death by 68%: Study

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Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that leads to snoring and is actually caused by frequent collapse of the airway during sleep makes it difficult for sufferers to breathe for periods lasting as long as 10 seconds. Severe sufferers may have 30 such apnoeic or breathless episodes per hour that can severely disrupt sleep.

Now researchers have found that this condition may also raise the risk of coronary heart disease or death by 68% in men under the age of 70. Similar rise of risk is not seen for men over 70 or for women. This is the largest study of its kind reported in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Studies have shown that estimated 24% of adult men and 9% of adult women suffer from OSA. It is commonly managed using a small device that can be worn as a mask and that delivers air into the airway, preventing apnea. This technique is known as continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP.

For this study Dr. Daniel J. Gottlieb of the Boston University School of Medicine and his colleagues studied 1,927 men and 2,495 women who were 40 or older at the beginning of the study and who had no heart problems. In this group, 24% of men and 11% of the women suffered from sleep apnea, as diagnosed by standard sleep studies and were untreated for their condition. The results showed increased risk of heart attack and death within median 8.7 years among men between the ages of 40 and 70 who suffered 30 or more apnea episodes per hour. They were also 58% more likely to suffer heart failure. Women however were protected from these risks the authors noted.

Dr. Gottlieb said in a statement, “The take-away from our study is that obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition that warrants medical treatment… Many patients don't experience symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness, or if they do, they don't mention it during routine medical exams. It's important for anyone who suspects they have obstructive sleep apnea to discuss it with their primary care physician.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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