Sleep Apnea Linked to Increased Cardiovascular Risk, Study Finds

Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing is interrupted during sleep, has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular issues. Researchers conducted a study to understand the underlying mechanisms behind this link. They analyzed data from over 4,500 middle-aged and older adults and found that reduced blood oxygen levels due to interrupted breathing during sleep were largely responsible for the increased cardiovascular risk in people with sleep apnea.

The study identified three main factors contributing to the risk: hypoxic burden (reduction in blood oxygen levels), ventilatory burden (interruptions in breathing due to airway obstruction), and nighttime arousals (sudden waking up from sleep due to breathing problems). The severity of sleep apnea was previously determined by the number of airway blockages during sleep, but this research provided valuable insights into the specific mechanisms that predict cardiovascular risks more accurately.

The findings could potentially impact how sleep apnea is diagnosed and treated, with the hope that addressing sleep apnea could help prevent future cardiovascular problems. However, more research is needed to validate and further understand these results. Obstructive sleep apnea affects a substantial number of adults worldwide, with millions at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, which remain the leading cause of death globally.

Labarca G, Vena D, Hu WH, Gell L, Yang HC Wang TY, Messino L, Taranto-Montemurro L, Sofer T, Barr RG, Stone KL, White DP, Wellman A, Sands S, Redeline S, Azarbarzin A. 2023. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. Jul 7. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202209-1808OC.