As if the problems associated with sleep apnea weren’t serious enough, a new research study has just concluded that people with the condition may face an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. The long-term study, conducted by Dr Apoor Gami from the Midwest Heart Specialists Group in Illinois (and funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health), followed over 10,000 men and women with diagnosed sleep apnea for 15 years.
The results strongly indicate that having obstructive sleep apnea (“OSA”) can greatly increase your risk of what they call sudden cardiac death – that is when your heart’s electrical functions are disrupted and blood stops being pumped around your body. It can be fatal unless emergency treatment is begun soon after symptoms occur. This bad news is, cardiac death is just one of many sleep apnea risks that researchers are looking into.
The study also found that if you have sleep apnea, your risk of suffering sudden cardiac death is greatest when:
- You are 60 years old or over
- Have low blood oxygen levels
- Have 20 or more episodes of apnea every hour
Interestingly, the study didn’t look into whether receiving treatment for sleep apnea such as a CPAP machine would reduce the risk of cardiac death, although when asked Dr Gami suggested that it might be reasonable to conclude as much.