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Men's Sleep Apnea Increases Heart Problems

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Helps, Say Spanish Researchers

Hearts at Risk? continued...

All of the study's participants were men. The researchers say they chose not to include women because other factors - such as sex hormones -- can affect heart disease.

Here's how the group broke down:

  • 264 healthy men
  • 377 men who snored but did not have obstructive sleep apnea
  • 403 men with mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea that had not been treated
  • 235 men with severe obstructive sleep apnea that had not been treated
  • 372 men with obstructive sleep apnea treated with CPAP

Patients checked in with the researchers at least once a year for about 10 years. Strokes and heart attacks were noted, along with heart bypass surgery and angiography.

More Heart Problems With Untreated Sleep Apnea

Heart disease was most common among men with severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea. Their rates of heart attack or stroke were higher compared with the healthy men, simple snorers, and men with treated obstructive sleep apnea.

The study showed that untreated severe obstructive sleep apnea nearly tripled the risk of fatal heart disease and more than tripled the risk of nonfatal heart disease.

Simple snorers and healthy men weren't at higher risk of fatal or nonfatal heart problems. "Simple snoring is not a significant cardiovascular risk factor," write the researchers.

CPAP significantly cut the risk of heart problems, say the researchers, who included Jose Marin, MD, of Universitario Miguel Servet in Zaragoza, Spain.

Because the study only included men, the researchers don't know if the findings also apply to women. The study appears in the March 19 issue of The Lancet.

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