Obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep, plays a role in blood vessel abnormalities and should be treated to prevent potentially fatal heart conditions, a new study suggests.
The condition may cause changes in blood vessel function, cutting blood supply to the heart in otherwise healthy people. Blood vessel dysfunction has been linked in previous research to cardiovascular disorders.
For the study, published in Hypertension, researchers monitored blood vessel function in 108 healthy people. The participants were divided into three groups: those with moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnoea without high blood pressure, those with high blood pressure but no sleep apnoea, those with neither sleep apnoea nor high blood pressure.
The researchers found that among those with sleep apnoea, blood supply and function improved after the participants received 26 weeks of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) using a device that holds the airway open during sleep.
Sleep apnoea and heart disease
"The findings should change how doctors treat patients with obstructive sleep apnoea," study author Dr Gregory Y.H. Lip, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Birmingham in England, said. "Even apparently healthy patients with sleep apnoea show abnormalities of small and large blood vessels, as well as impaired blood supply to the heart muscle, and these can improve with CPAP therapy."
The study authors concluded awareness of the link between obstructive sleep apnoea and heart disease is essential. "The condition can be treated, and it is important that clinicians look out for it," said Lip.
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