Sleep Apnea Increasingly Tied to Heart Risks: Study

SUNDAY. March 4 (HealthDay News) -- People with obstructive sleep apnea are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, a new U.S. study suggests.

People with obstructive sleep apnea experience multiple breathing interruptions while they sleep. This occurs when tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway.

The authors of the study, published March 1 in the journal Sleep, said there is mounting data indicating that the condition plays a potentially important, causative role in cardiovascular disease.

"There is abundant physiologic evidence implicating obstructive sleep apnea in perpetuating, if not inciting, heart failure," study co-author Dr. Sean M. Caples, of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., said in a prepared statement.

"In addition to their association with systemic hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea-related stressors ... have varying effects on myocardial [heart] oxygen supply and demand, particularly in the already compromised heart," Caples said.

Treating sleep disorders and getting adequate amounts of sleep are important factors in good cardiovascular health, noted Dr. Lawrence Epstein, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, medical director of Sleep HealthCenters and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"Sleep apnea is a know risk factor for the development of hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Also, chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to change metabolic function in a way that promotes weight gain and diabetes, two risk factors for heart disease," Epstein said in a prepared statement.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, March 1, 2007

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