Features November 2009 Issue

Treat Sleep-Disordered Breathing to Protect Your Heart

Sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, can put you at risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

In one of the strongest recent studies supporting the link between sleep-disordered breathing and an increased risk of death, the Sleep Heart Health Study found that people with severe sleep apnea had a 40 percent increased risk of death compared to those without the condition. The research, which included 6,440 men and women over the age of 40, studied from October 1995 to February 1998, was published in the Aug. 18 online edition of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine. An estimated nine percent of women and 24 percent of men in the general population have sleep-disordered breathing, which has been linked to coronary disease, hypertension, and stroke. Researchers suggest that despite the large numbers of people with sleep-disordered breathing, it remains significantly underdiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)—a condition in which the soft tissues of the throat collapse during sleep, blocking the airway and causing loud snoring—can lead to cardiovascular problems including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

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