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Sleep Apnea Leads To Increased Risk Of Death

Sleep Apnea Leads To Increased Risk Of Death

A major study conducted over a decade has concluded that sleep apnea raises the risk of premature death in middle-aged and older men…

A new study has concluded that middle-aged and elderly man with sleep apnea, are at almost double the risk of dying from chronic diseases. Even patients with a moderate sleep apnea face a 17 percent increased risk of premature death, when compared with those who do not have sleep disordered breathing problems.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Naresh Punjabi, an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said:

“The primary finding of our study is that sleep apnea can increase the risk of death by about 40 percent, even after other factors have been accounted for…

“Our study also shows that it is the decrease in oxygen levels during sleep from sleep apnea that explains the increased risk of death,”

The decade-long U.S. study found that men with sleep apnea between the ages of 40 and 70 are particularly at risk of death from many ailments, especially cardiovascular disease.

sleep apnea 1 Sleep Apnea Leads To Increased Risk Of Death

Sleep apnea is a common, chronic condition that affects around one in four men and about one in 10 women. If left untreated, it can lead to excessive sleepiness and difficulties with alertness, this often leads to an increased risk for driving accidents and other activities.

For their study, the research team at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center focused on more than 6,400 men and women between 40 and 70 years old. Each participant had mild to severe sleep apnea, and many described themselves as snorers – a prime symptom of sleep apnea.

The team then collected almost 10,000 in-depth reports on the participants breathing patterns, heart rhythms and brain activity during sleep. After determining that about half the patients had moderate to severe sleep apnea, the researchers went on to track the incidence of sickness or death from high blood pressure, heart disease and/or stroke.

Over the full course of the study, 587 men and 460 women died. Comparing the deaths against the sleep pattern recordings, the team found that just 11 minutes of severe sleep apnea – during which blood oxygen levels dipped to below 90 percent of normal – appeared to roughly double the risk of death among men.

The small number of women with severe sleep apnea who died during the study ruled out similar conclusions about women.

Nonetheless, Punjabi and his colleagues stressed that the findings were alarming enough to warrant diligent physician attention to patient sleeping habits, in order to quickly intervene:

“With such mounting evidence indicating the range of clinical effects of sleep apnea, awareness amongst health care professionals and the general community needs to increase,”

Losing weight sometimes reduces sleep apnea, but for severe sleep disorders, patients must use a device that utilizes ‘continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP) – a technique in which are is forced into the nasal passageways, via a face mask, in order to stop the airways collapsing.

sleep apnea Sleep Apnea Leads To Increased Risk Of Death

People with clinical symptoms of sleep apnea, which include loud snoring, sleepiness during the day and fatigue, should discuss their symptoms with a physician, Punjabi advised:

“Effective therapy for sleep apnea can improve such symptoms and lead to a better quality of life,”

Jim Cappuccino, a 49-year-old sleep apnea patient living in the Baltimore suburbs who was part of Punjabi’s study, agreed.

Cappuccino, the owner of a surgical equipment and medical device sales company, knew he had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes before enrolling in the study.

Although he can trace the onset of sleep apnea difficulties, such as disruptive snoring and breathing pauses, back to his mid-30′s, it was only when he enrolled in
the study that he was finally diagnosed with sleep apnea, he said:

“When you’re in that career mode, and you’re on the go-go-go, you put your health issues on the back burner…

“But as I got older, I realized that this is probably something that I should have addressed years ago. I was shocked by the correlation between sleep apnea and heart disease and diabetes, and actually even death, but getting tested and diagnosed and treated has made all the difference. It’s actually allowed me to wake up not feeling tired, which hasn’t been the norm for me for a few years…

“So the only thing I can say, is people who feel that they are having trouble should get tested, because sleep apnea is going to deteriorate your system and lead to many other health problems.”

Similar studies from Australia and the University of Wisconsin also linked sleep apnea with a greater risk of dying.

Punjabi and his colleagues published their findings in the online Aug. 18 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.


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