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Sleep Apnea 'Mask' Might Also Help the Heart
Date:5/22/2012

By Carina Storrs
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that treating obstructive sleep apnea, a common cause of snoring and daytime sleepiness, might also cut down on a serious health hazard associated with the condition -- the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Researchers in Spain examined the number of new cases of high blood pressure in two groups with sleep apnea who used continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP, for either about four or 11 years. CPAP involves the use of a mask to help push air into the lungs while asleep.

The results were published in a pair of studies in the May 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Both studies found that people who used CPAP, the most common treatment for sleep apnea, for at least four hours a night had lower rates of developing high blood pressure compared with those who were not prescribed CPAP or who used it less regularly.

"CPAP seems to have a protective effect in patients who use the machine properly," said Dr. José Marin, director of the Sleep Respiratory Unit at Miguel Servet University Hospital in Zaragoza, an author of both studies.

However, about 10 percent of people used the machine for fewer than four hours nightly, which is considered the minimum amount to see benefits, Marin said.

Many patients are uncomfortable with CPAP because it is inconvenient and the mask covers their nose while they sleep, or the person they sleep with does not like the noise the machine makes, Marin said.

But alternative treatments, such as surgery or mouth devices, generally don't work as well as CPAP, and there are less data suggesting they reduce the risk of high blood pressure, said Dr. Aneesa Das, assistant director of the sleep disorders program at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

A reduction in high blood pressure risk could a
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