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

lso reduce the risk of other diseases, such as heart failure, which are more common in people with sleep apnea. "The idea is that there are probably multiple factors that are causing cardiovascular events and stroke [in sleep apnea patients], including [high blood pressure]," said Das.

It is estimated that 17 percent of U.S. adults have obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway closes during sleep and restricts breathing. It can cause people to wake up repeatedly and can lead to low levels of oxygen in the blood.

One of the studies included about 1,900 patients at Marin's sleep clinic who did not have high blood pressure. Their average age was 50.

The researchers assigned participants to CPAP treatment if they had severe obstructive sleep apnea or a less severe form along with daytime sleepiness. Then they measured their blood pressure each year for an average of 11 years.

The investigators found that patients with sleep apnea who used CPAP therapy were 29 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure during the study than the "control" group, which did not have sleep apnea and did not receive CPAP. However, as Marin pointed out, the people in the control group were "snorers, and they have been reported to have cardiovascular problems."

The researchers also found that patients with sleep apnea who did not use CPAP had higher rates of high blood pressure compared with the control group.

For example, the 10 percent of 922 participants who did not use CPAP at least four hours a night had a 78 percent higher risk of developing high blood pressure than the control group.

The researchers found that the lower risk of high blood pressure in the CPAP group could not be explained by differences in factors such as patients' body mass index (a measurement that takes into account height and weight), alcohol use or blood pressure at the beginning of the study.

However, there could still be differences between the C
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