It was already known that sleep apnea is one of the more dangerous sleep disorders, but a new study brings to light just how deadly it can be. The study is by the Boston University School of Medicine and is published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Assn. It indicates that sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart disease and death by as much as two-thirds.
The story is reported this week by the Los Angeles Times:
Obstructive sleep apnea is marked by the frequent collapse of the airway during sleep, making it difficult for victims to breathe for periods lasting as long as 10 seconds. Those with a severe form of the disorder have at least 30 disruptions per hour.
he researchers found that, when they eliminated all other risk factors, men between the ages of 40 and 70 who suffered 30 or more apnea episodes per hour were 68% more likely either to suffer a heart attack, to need a coronary artery opened, or to die of heart disease during the median of 8.7 years of follow-up. The men were 58% more likely to suffer heart failure. The researchers were at a loss to explain why women did not suffer such cardiovascular problems, but speculated that the study was simply not large enough to detect it because of the low incidence of apnea in that sex.