Sleep apnea may lead to heart disease

Feb 04, 2011

Sleep apnea may increase the odds of developing heart disease.

People with obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder related to obesity, contain more amounts of unhealthy plaque in their coronary arteries, according to a study from the Radiological Society of North America.

The disorder, much like snoring, is caused by obstruction of the upper airway during sleep and its symptoms include periodic pauses in breathing, which last for 10 or more seconds, according to the RSNA. The study cites the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes’ statistics indicating millions of Americans have OSA, and approximately half of them are overweight.

Dr. U. Joseph Schoepf says, "Our study reveals that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are prone to developing an aggressive form of atherosclerosis that puts them at risk for impaired blood flow and cardiovascular events."

The RSNA determined that patients with OSA had a much higher prevalence of vessel narrowing and more extensive vessel involvement, as was noted in the results. The study showed 88 percent of patients with the disorder had narrowing in at least one vessel, compared to 59 percent of patients without it.

Overweight people with OSA may want to consider implementing healthy habits into their lives by exercising more and dieting. Those who do may see their life insurance premiums become cheaper as they become more fit.

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