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Sleep Apnea Boosts Death Risk
Date:8/1/2008

But it's unclear whether treating the breathing disorder cuts the danger, one expert says

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The interrupted nighttime breathing of sleep apnea appears to increase the risk of dying, Australian researchers report.

Earlier studies have linked sleep apnea to increased risk for death. However, these studies were done in sleep centers rather than in the general community. This new study suggests that the risk is present among all people with obstructive sleep apnea.

"This is the first study to demonstrate an independent association between all-cause mortality and sleep apnea in a community-based study," researcher Nathaniel Marshall, a postdoctoral fellow at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, said in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release.

"The size of the increased mortality risk was surprisingly large," Marshall said. "In our particular study, a sixfold increase means that having significant sleep apnea at age 40 gives you about the same mortality risk as somebody aged 57 who doesn't have sleep apnea," he said.

Sleep apnea is a common problem in which one has pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep.

The report was published in the Aug. 1 edition of Sleep.

For the study, Marshall's team collected data on 380 men and women, 40 to 65 years old, who participated in the Busselton Health Study. That study is an ongoing survey of residents in the rural town of Busselton in the state of Western Australia.

Among these people, three had severe obstructive sleep apnea, 18 had moderate sleep apnea, and 77 had mild sleep apnea. The remaining 285 people did not suffer from the condition.

During 14 years of follow-up, about 33 percent of those with moderate to severe sleep apnea died, compared with 6.5 percent of those with mild sleep apnea and 7.7 percent of those without the condition, Marshall
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