Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Sleep Apnea Health Center

Font Size

Sleep Apnea: Treatment May Help Keep BP Low

CPAP Linked to Lower Hypertension Risk, but Questions Remain
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 22, 2012 -- People with obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, and now two new studies suggest that treating the disorder may lower this risk.

In one study, patients with obstructive sleep apnea who slept with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment appeared to have a reduced risk for developing high blood pressure.

Another study that included patients who used a CPAP machine for more than four hours a night, but not less, appeared to have a lower high blood pressure risk.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airways become narrowed or blocked during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing from a few times a night to hundreds of times.

CPAP opens airways by forcing air into the nostrils through a mask worn while sleeping.

The studies, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, add to the evidence that positive air pressure treatment lowers heart risk in patients with obstructive sleep apnea -- but important questions remain, experts say.

"We know that obstructive sleep apnea is a potential cause of high blood pressure, and we know that CPAP use is associated with reductions in blood pressure in people with hypertension," says sleep specialist Vishesh K. Kapur, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle. "And now there is reasonable evidence that this treatment can prevent high blood pressure in patients who don't already have it."

Sleep Apnea Often Not Diagnosed

Almost 1 in 5 adults in the United States has mild to severe sleep apnea, but only about 10% have been diagnosed with the disorder.

CPAP has been shown to improve quality of life and daytime sleepiness, but adherence is an issue because many patients find the masks too uncomfortable to wear.

While studies strongly suggest a causal role for obstructive sleep apnea in high blood pressure, confirming the association has been difficult because the disorder is common in people with other risk factors for high blood pressure, such as obesity.

In one of the newly published studies, researchers from Lleida, Spain's, Institut de Recerca Biomedica recruited around 700 sleep apnea patients and treated half with CPAP.

Today on WebMD

man wearing cpap
Know your myths from your facts.
man sleeping
What do they say about you?
man suffering from sleep apnea
You may need a sleep study.
exhausted and tired
Which type do you have?
Pet scan depression
Nighttime Heartburn
Fight Fatigue Sleepiness On The Road
Sleep Apnea Appliance
Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
Sleep Apnea Clues
Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
Breus Sleep Apnea