Sleep apnoea sufferers at risk of heart disease

Washington: Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom have suggested that a common sleep disorder may affect the blood vessels responsible for supplying blood to the heart, raising the risk of heart disease in otherwise healthy people.

Their study is the first to show blood vessel abnormalities in otherwise healthy people with obstructive sleep apnea. Previous studies have linked blood vessel dysfunction to cardiovascular disorders.

The researchers found that treatment with 26 weeks of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) improved study participants` blood supply and function.

“The findings should change how doctors treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” said lead researcher Gregory Y.H. Lip, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

“Even apparently healthy patients with sleep apnea show abnormalities of small and large blood vessels, as well as impaired blood supply to the heart muscle, and these can improve with CPAP therapy,” he added.

In the study, the researchers examined blood vessel function in three different groups of 36 people for a total of 108 participants.

The first group had moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea without hypertension, the second group had hypertension without obstructive sleep apnea, and the third comparison group had neither hypertension nor obstructive sleep apnea.

Researchers assessed blood vessel function at the start of the study and again after the sleep apnea group received 26 weeks of CPAP therapy.

The findings appear in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.