WHAT: Moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of death from any cause in middle-aged adults, especially men, according to new results from a landmark study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The new findings provide the strongest evidence to date of a link between increased risk of death and sleep apnea, a common disorder in which the upper airway is intermittently narrowed during sleep, causing breathing to be difficult or completely blocked.
Overall, study participants with severe sleep apnea were at a 40 percent increased risk of death compared to those who did not have the breathing condition. The mortality risk was most apparent in men, who were more likely to die from any cause as well as from heart disease if they had severe sleep apnea. In particular, men between the ages of 40 and 70 with severe sleep apnea were twice as likely to die during the study compared to their peers who did not have the condition.
"Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study," is published in the August 18 issue of the open-access journal PLoS Medicine.
Researchers from the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) studied more than 6,000 men and women aged 40 years and older who had no sleep apnea or had mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea as determined by a standard at-home sleep test at the beginning of the study. After an average of eight years, participants who had severe sleep apnea at enrollment were one and one-half times more likely to die from any cause, regardless of age, gender, race, or weight, or whether they were a current or former smoker or had other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.
The results confirm findings from smaller, community-based studies which have suggested increased frequency of death among adults with sleep apnea. SHHS, which
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NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute