Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease Risk

A recent study published in PLoS Medicine looked at the medical records of sleep apnea patients finds that factors of obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, are significantly associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Of the just over 10,000 patients in the study, 12 percent suffered a heart attack, stroke or congestive heart failure, or died from cardiac related problems, and those that had the most severe heart problems also had the most severe apnea symptoms during their initial sleep study.

The researchers, led by Tetyana Kendzerska, MD, from the University of Toronto, found that:

  • Oxygen saturation levels are important. Patients who had oxygen saturation levels below 90 percent were 50 percent more likely to have a heart disease event or death than those patients who did not experience any time with oxygen saturation below 90 percent.
  • The amount of sleep matters for heart health. The study showed that people who had an average sleep time of 4.9 hours were 20 percent more likely to have a heart disease event or death than those who got 6.4 hours of sleep time.
  • More apnea events means more risk. Patients who woke up 35 times per night were six percent more likely to have a heart disease event or death than those who woke up 18 times per night.
  • Daytime sleepiness is an indicator of risk. Patients who reported having excessive daytime sleepiness were 13 percent more likely to experience a heart disease event or death than those that reported feeling awake during the day. 

By Ramie A Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT

 

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