MONDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- The snoring and breathing disturbances of sleep apnea may be more than just a nuisance, with a new study linking the condition to higher risks for heart failure and heart disease in middle-aged and older men.
However, the study found no correlation between sleep apnea and coronary heart disease in women, or in men older than 70.
"The key here is that there is a lot of undiagnosed sleep apnea, and that, at least in men, it is associated with the development of coronary heart disease and heart failure. Only about 10 percent of sleep apnea cases are diagnosed, " said Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, associate professor of medicine, Boston University School of Medicine.
Gottlieb noted that while the jump in heart risk was noteworthy, it was not as large as that seen in previous clinic-based studies of sleep apnea because the participants were drawn from a broad community-based population.
According to background information in the study, sleep apnea sufferers awaken suddenly during the night struggling to breathe, often experiencing a shot of blood pressure- raising adrenaline. Most often, they go right back to sleep, unaware of what happened. But the awakenings are repeated, sometimes up to 30 times an hour, depriving the sufferer of vital oxygen and sound sleep.
The research is published online July 12 in Circulation.
In the study, almost 2,000 men and about 2,500 women -- all free of heart problems at the beginning of the research -- were recorded as they slept using polysomnograms, which measured the presence and severity of sleep apnea as calibrated on the Apnea-Hypopnea Index.
About half had no symptoms of sleep apnea, the team found, while half had mild, moderate or severe symptoms.
Participants were then contacted at various times from 1998 to the final follow-up in April 2006. During that time, 473 cardiac even
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