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Sleep Apnea Death Risks

Sleep Apnea Linked to Car Wrecks, Diabetes, Heart Attack, Pregnancy Woes

Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

While evaluating older, obese men for a sleep apnea study, Botros and his Yale colleagues noticed that about a third of the patients suffered from diabetes as well as sleep apnea.

To see whether the two conditions were related, the researchers kept track of nearly 600 sleep apnea patients for up to six years. Compared with similar men without sleep apnea, the patients were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to develop diabetes.

The more severe the sleep apnea, the higher the patients' risk of diabetes.

"We know that by measuring markers in the blood that the body of a person with sleep apnea is in a highly inflammatory, highly excitatory state," Botros says. "This state increases stress hormones, and we think the insulin-making pancreatic beta cells are affected."

Botros and colleagues are now looking at whether CPAP treatment can reduce sleep apnea patients' diabetes risk.

Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy Complications

Sleep apnea is more common among obese people. But the extra weight gain during the third trimester of pregnancy often puts a woman at risk of sleep apnea, says Hatim Youssef, DO, of the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Youssef and colleagues noticed that in their hospital, women tended to have low blood oxygen levels at night if their BMI (body mass index, a measure of weight according to height) went over 35. A BMI of 30 is considered obese for people who are not pregnant.

So the researchers analyzed the 2003 medical records of 4 million U.S. women who delivered babies. Only 452 of these 4 million women had sleep apnea. But these 452 women were much more likely than other women to experience complications:

  • Women with sleep apnea were twice as likely as other women to have gestational diabetes.
  • Women with sleep apnea were four times more likely than other women to have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

"I absolutely think women whose BMI goes over 35 when they are pregnant should be assessed for sleep apnea," Youssef tells WebMD. "We really are pushing our obstetric colleagues to have this on their radar because sleep apnea is very treatable. It may help to treat this condition, which is dangerous to the mother and to the fetus."

Obesity isn't the only risk factor for sleep apnea in pregnant women, Youssef says. He suggests that women with preeclampsia or high blood pressure are also at higher risk.

Sleep Apnea and Heart Attack, Heart Death

Having sleep apnea for four or five years raises a person's risk of having a heart attack or dying by 30%, find Neomi Shah, MD, and colleagues at Yale University.

Shah's team followed 1,123 patients evaluated for sleep apnea. More than 500 of these patients had 15 or more low-oxygen events per hour of sleep.

After adjusting for other heart risk factors, these patients were 30% more likely to have a heart attack or die over a four-and-a-half year period. The more severe the sleep apnea, the higher the risk of heart attack or death.

"There is some evidence to make us believe that when sleep apnea is appropriately treated, the risk of heart disease can be lowered," Shah says in a news release.

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