Sleep Disorders

18 August 2014

Severe sleep apnoea aggravates blood pressure risk

A study suggests that severe obstructive sleep apnoea contributes to poor blood pressure control.


Severe sleep apnoea may raise the risk of high blood pressure that's resistant to drug treatment, a new study finds.

Researchers tracked outcomes for patients with moderate or severe sleep apnoea, as well as heart disease or heart disease risk factors. All of the patients had been prescribed at least three high blood pressure medications in the past.

Read: Sleep apnoea treatment may improve looks

The Cleveland Clinic team reports that about 58 percent of the patients with severe sleep apnoea had treatment-resistant high blood pressure, compared to just under 29 percent of those with moderate sleep apnoea.

The study couldn't prove cause-and-effect, but the findings "suggest that severe obstructive sleep apnoea contributes to poor blood pressure control despite aggressive medication use," study lead author Dr. Harneet Walia said in a journal news release.

"Poor blood pressure control in patients taking multiple [blood pressure] medications makes them particularly vulnerable to increased cardiovascular risk," warned Walia, who is assistant professor at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.

Strong warning sign

"High blood pressure that is resistant to treatment with medications is a strong warning sign for the presence of obstructive sleep apnoea, a chronic disease that increases the risk for heart disease and stroke," American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler added in the news release.

Read: Dealing with sleep apnoea

"Over one-third of patients with hypertension and nearly eight out of 10 patients with treatment resistant hypertension have obstructive sleep apnoea. People who have high blood pressure should talk to a doctor about their risk for sleep apnoea," he advised.

About 36 million American adults with high blood pressure don't have it under control, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

Read more:

Poor sleep may increase suicide risk
Drugs may not help shift workers stay awake
Sleep deprivation serious threat for astronauts

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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