Sleep apnea that is at a severe stage has been associated with significant changes in critical arteries and could speed up the aging of your vascular system according to new research.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
According to Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea.
Treatment can ease your symptoms and might help prevent heart problems and other complications.
Can Sleep Apnea Lead To Cardiovascular Disease?
What Did the Study Find?
The study that was published on Monday in the Journal of the American Heart Association sought to bring attention to the association between obstructive sleep apnea and a speedup in vascular aging. Vascular aging is a thickening of some blood vessels that changes them structurally and functionally.
Researchers already had knowledge about the role vascular aging plays in cardiovascular disease. About 34% of men in their middle ages and 17% of women in their middle ages are affected by sleep apnea which has a strong correlation to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.
According to a statement published by scientists of the American Heart Association in June, around 40-80% of people with cardiovascular disease have also been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, lapses in breathing and fragmented sleep.
Unfortunately, past evidence was limited when it came to associating vascular aging and sleep apnea. In the latest report, researchers have utilized data for their analysis from 2 huge European studies.
After taking a look at 8000 people who had no history of cardiovascular disease, they found that those with sleep apnea showed an accelerated rate of aging of their arteries in contrast to similar people who had not been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
For example, there was a 214% increase in the risk of an enlarged carotid diameter for adults with sleep apnea which is an indication of vascular aging.
The co-author of the study, Quentin Lisan said that he was not shocked by the findings of the study because studies in the past showed the same result, just not on the same large scale.
He said that their findings could elucidate why people with sleep apnea have subjected themselves to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Lisan is also a head and neck surgeon at Foch Hospital in France.
He added that the findings of the study should encourage doctors to be more meticulous about testing people with vascular aging or sleep apnea especially since tests cannot be performed at a low cost or non-invasively.
He suggested that people who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea to restore or preserve their optimal vascular health. He said that this can be achieved by limiting cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, quitting smoking, having a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight by being physically active.
The study was limited by multiple factors. The status of sleep apnea was determined by means of a questionnaire while it should have been done through a sleep study. It was also primarily focused on white Europeans. These might have produced slightly skewed results.
He acknowledged that future research must be done to see if continuous airway pressure machines which are known by an alternative name of ‘CPAPs’ can reverse or at least slow vascular aging and provide shielding against vascular disease. These devices have been known to significantly reduce the risk of heart failure.
Dr, Susan Redline, a senior physician at Brighman and Women’s Hospital in Boston who did not take part in the study said that it was a well-designed study.