Sleep Apnea Device May Help Save Heart

CPAP Machine May Help Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke in People With Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 29, 2007

Aug. 29, 2007 -- A device that treats a common sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea may help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems, a new study shows.

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.

CPAP Study

Buchner and colleagues offered CPAP machines to 449 adults with mild, moderate, or severe obstructive sleep apnea. All but 85 patients accepted the devices.

The patients, who got regular checkups, were typically followed for about six years.

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 heart disease.

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.

Show Sources

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."

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