Obstructive sleep apnea is a very serious
condition in which people have trouble breathing during sleep
because their airway is blocked. They may have very shallow breath or even stop
breathing briefly several times per night.
A device called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) helps people with
obstructive sleep apnea breathe more easily during sleep.
The new study comes from German doctors including Nikolaus Buchner, MD, of
Germany's Ruhr University Bochum.
They already knew that CPAP may reduce heart risks in people with severe
obstructive sleep apnea. Buchner's team wanted to see if that's also true for
people with milder obstructive sleep apnea.
Buchner and colleagues offered CPAP machines to 449 adults with mild,
moderate, or severe obstructive sleep apnea. All but 85 patients accepted the
The patients, who got regular checkups, were typically followed for about
Those who accepted CPAP were 64%
less likely to have certain fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular problems --
including heart attacks and strokes -- during the study period, regardless of
their age, BMI (body mass index), type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, and history of
Buchner and colleagues note that their findings may not apply to everyone
with obstructive sleep apnea.
However, the researchers write that therapy for obstructive sleep apnea
"should be considered" even for mild forms of obstructive sleep apnea.
The study appears in an advance online edition of the American Journal of
Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
SOURCES: Buchner, N. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
Medicine, Aug. 2, 2007; advance online edition. National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute: "Sleep Apnea." WebMD Medical News: "Treatment for Sleep Apnea
May Ease Depression."