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Sleep Apnea Worsens Heart Disease: Study

Health care experts urge increased awareness of obstructive sleep apnea among people with cardiovascular disease

WASHINGTON — According to a new study, healthcare experts urge increased awareness of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among people with cardiovascular disease or risk factors such as high blood pressure.

According to the study, obstructive sleep apnea occurs in 40 percent to 80 percent of people with cardiovascular disease, yet it is under-recognized and undertreated.

The findings of the study were published in “Circulation,” the Association’s flagship journal.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when an upper airway obstruction causes repeated episodes of disrupted breathing during sleep.

According to Mayo Clinic, obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disease. During sleep, it causes breathing to cease and start periodically. There are numerous varieties of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea where your neck muscles relax and restrict your airway during sleep is the most common.

Snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. Other symptoms include lapses in breathing, fragmented sleep, and daytime sleepiness. In general, about 34 percent of middle-aged men and 17 percent of middle-aged women meet the criteria for obstructive sleep apnea.

“Obstructive sleep apnea can negatively impact patients’ health and increase the risk of cardiovascular events and death,” said Yerem Yeghiazarians, M.D., FAHA, professor of medicine and the Leone-Perkins Family Endowed Chair in Cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

“This statement is to encourage increased awareness, screening, and treatment as appropriate for sleep apnea.”

Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include obesity, large neck circumference, craniofacial abnormalities, smoking, family history, and night-time nasal congestion.

Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with several cardiovascular complications like high blood pressure, heart rhythms disorders such as atrial fibrillation and sudden cardiac death, stroke, worsening heart failure, worsening coronary artery disease and risk of heart attack, pulmonary hypertension (PH), metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.

While there’s no consensus that screening for obstructive sleep apnea alters clinical outcomes, the high prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea among people with cardiovascular disease, along with evidence that obstructive sleep apnea treatment improves patient quality of life, are reasons to screen and provide treatment, according to the study.

“Patients report better mood, less snoring, less daytime sleepiness, improved quality of life and work productivity with obstructive sleep apnea treatment,” said Yeghiazarians.

“In addition, screening advances have changed how we diagnose and treat obstructive sleep apnea. For example, many patients do not have to go to an overnight sleep study center anymore,” he said.

“The FDA now approved sleep devices that patients use at home and send back to their doctor for assessment. And, while a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is one form of treatment, there are numerous therapeutic options — from positional therapy and weight loss to oral appliances and surgery — depending on the cause and severity of someone’s obstructive sleep apnea.”

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Anindita Ghosh and Ojaswin Kathuria)