Sleep Apnea Ups Stroke Risk in Elderly
Common Sleep Disorder May More Than Double Stroke Risk Among Older Adults
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 30, 2006 -- Older adults with sleep apnea may face a more
than doubled risk of stroke, according to a
Researchers found undiagnosed sleepapnea increased the risk of
stroke by 2.5 times among the elderly.
Previous studies have linked severe sleep apnea to strokes in middle-aged
adults, but researchers say this is the first study to show an increased risk
associated with the sleep disorder among older adults.
More than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, but many aren't
aware of it. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when breathing is briefly and
repeatedly interrupted during sleep for 10 seconds or longer due to a blockage
or narrowing of the airway in the nose, mouth, or throat.
Sleep apnea can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of
times breathing is interrupted.
Sleep Apnea Linked to Stroke Risk
In the study, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart
Association, researchers followed nearly 400 adults between the ages of 70
and 100 for six years. Each was evaluated for sleep apnea at the start of the
During the study period, 20 strokes were reported. Participants with
previously undiagnosed severe sleep apnea were 2.5 times more likely to have a
stroke, regardless of their other traditional stroke risk factors such as high
blood pressure, smoking, and cholesterol levels.
Researcher Roberto Munoz, MD, and colleagues at the Hospital de Navarra in
Pamplona, Spain say the findings add to recent studies that suggest sleep apnea
may be a risk factor for stroke.
For example, a 2005 study in middle-aged adults, published in the New
England Journal of Medicine, showed those with sleep apnea were three
times more likely to suffer a stroke.
Researchers say that until now it was believed that undiagnosed severe sleep
apnea among the elderly was less of a health risk compared with middle-aged
people. But they say this study highlights the need for screening for the sleep
disorder in older as well as younger people.