Tuesday, November 25, 2008



Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease

Obstructive sleep apnea, also known as OSA, is a sleeping disorder characterized by breathing pauses while sleeping. The particular type of sleep apnea is caused by soft issue in the airways relaxing and obstructing breathing. For instance, a person with sleep apnea will have pauses in their breathing where it appears their body is trying to breathe, but does not. Eventually the body will take a breath and there may be a sigh or slight gasp for air, since the body has missed a breath or two. The sleeper is usually unaware that this is happening, unless someone has observed their troubled breathing during sleep and has alerted them to the issue. Symptoms can include snoring, a lack of snoring if one is usually a snorer, and sleepiness during the day.

For reasons unknown, sleep apnea has been found to increase the chances of congestive heart failure, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Recently researchers have set out to determine what cause those with sleep apnea to be at a higher risk for these serious conditions.

A new study suggests that it may be their diet. The study assessed 320 people with OSA and found that they had a diet higher in saturated fat and cholesterol than those without sleep apnea, and even higher than those with a mild form of the condition. Those with OSA ate an average of 88 milligrams of cholesterol and 9 grams of fat more than the other two groups. They also exercised less.

Researchers are still unsure of this relationship and wonder if the poor diet causes the increased risk, or whether sleep apnea causes a poor diet. There have been studies in the past that found obesity raises the risk of sleep apnea, and still other studies that show that sleep deprivation can toy with hormones that control appetite. Others think that the lack of oxygen may raise blood pressure (high blood pressure is without a doubt a silent killer), which can have an effect on cardiovascular health.

The relationship between obesity, sleep apnea, cardiovascular health and heart disease is there, but the cause is still uncertain.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.





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