Sufferers of mild obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk of sudden cardiac death, according to an American cardiology study.
Many sleep apnea patients are undiagnosed
Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing to stop briefly during sleep and each pause, known as an apnea, lasts for at least 10 seconds and sometimes minutes.
The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and was led by Apoor Gami from Midwest Heart Specialists.
The study found that cardiac arrest, which causes 50% of all heart-related deaths, was more likely between the sleeping hours of 10pm and 6am for sleep apnea sufferers. For those without sleep apnea this is the time they are least likely to die from sudden cardiac arrest.
Data from more than 10,000 patients, who were followed for approximately five years, was analysed for incidents of sudden cardiac arrest.
Many people with sleep apnea go undiagnosed but it is thought that it affects almost 4% of middle-aged men and 2% of middle-aged women.
Gami, a cardiologist and lead author, believes that there is a link between sleep apnea and obesity.
“The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in Western populations is high and will likely only continue to grow given the obesity epidemic and direct relationship between obesity and sleep apnea,” he said.
Previous studies have linked sleep apnea to heart and cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure and heart attacks.
The scientists from the study were keen to stress that for sleep apnea patients the risk of sudden cardiac arrest "does not simply shift from daytime hours to night-time hours, but that their overall risk of sudden cardiac death is higher than people without sleep apnea."
Health insurance can cover medical treatment for sleep disorders as long as they are not a pre-existing condition. For more information read our guide here or call an FSA-regulated advisor on 0800 862 0373.
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