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People Who Snore Could Be at Higher Risk of Heart Failure

Update Date: Dec 05, 2012 10:31 AM EST

A new study suggests that people with obstructive sleep apnea have the same early cardiovascular damage as diabetics.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder and has been earlier associated with cardiovascular disease. People with OSA have increased risk of hypertension, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, stroke, sudden cardiac death and heart failure, Medical Xpress reports.

"There are not enough studies in the medical literature on early cardiovascular dysfunction in patients with OSA, when active steps can be taken to prevent progression to heart failure," Dr. Raluca Mincu from Bucharest, Romania, said.

"Because OSA leads to so many cardiovascular disorders, we compared early cardiovascular dysfunction in OSA patients and patients with diabetes mellitus, which is a typical risk factor for cardiovascular disease," she added.

For the study, researchers assessed endothelial and arterial function in 20 patients with moderate to severe OSA, but no diabetes. Also, they assessed another 20 patients with treated type 2 diabetes mellitus. All the participants in the study were from similar age groups, sex and cardiovascular risk factors. Yet another 20 people (control group) were assessed for arterial function and endothelial function.

"Patients with moderate to severe OSA had endothelial dysfunction and higher arterial stiffness than controls, and their results were similar to patients with diabetes mellitus. This suggests that OSA is associated with a high risk for cardiovascular disease," Dr. Mincu further said.

"Patients in the OSA and diabetes groups had a higher intima-media thickness, which shows that their arteries are remodelled in a pathological way."

Dr. Mincu said that patients should understand that there could be serious cardiac pathology behind snoring and that a sleep specialist's help and suggestion will be beneficial.

"If they are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, they are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and need to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle to reduce that risk. Although OSA treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is inconvenient - it requires sleeping with a mask - patients should use it because it can reverse the parameters measured in our study," she said.

"Our study is a signal for cardiologists, pneumologists and general practitioners to work together to actively diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, administer the appropriate treatment (CPAP) and assess arterial function. This will help avoid progression of early cardiovascular dysfunction through to heart failure, the final stage of heart disease," she concluded.

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