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Obesity, Hypertension Ups Risk of Sleep Apnea in Women

Update Date: Aug 16, 2012 05:09 AM EDT

A new study claims that a large number of women are affected by sleep apnea contrary to the common notion that the condition predominantly affects males. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition wherein the patients experience abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep.

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each pause in breathing, called an apnea can typically last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur up to 30 times in an hour.

The study by researchers from Uppsala and Umeå University in Sweden further suggests that those women who have hypertension and/or are obese, are more likely to experience sleep apnea compared to others.

The current study was conducted to look into the frequency and the risk factors of the condition in women. 

For the study, the researchers analyzed 400 women, aged 20 years, from a random sample of 10,000 women. The participants were given questionnaires to answer and put through a sleep examination. 

The findings revealed that sleep apnea affected 50 percent of women and also, there was a link between age, obesity and hypertension. It was found that 80 percent of women with hypertension and 84 percent of obese women suffered from sleep apnea and 31 percent of obese women aged between 55-70 years suffered the condition.

"We were very surprised to find such a high occurrence of sleep apnea in women, as it is traditionally thought of as a male disorder. These findings suggest that clinicians should be particularly aware of the association between sleep apnea and obesity and hypertension in order to identify patients who could also be suffering from the sleeping disorder," lead author Professor Karl Franklin said according to Medical Xpress. 

The study was published online August 16 in the European Respiratory Journal.

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