Swedish researchers have found that stroke victims who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) die sooner than stroke victims who do not have OSA or central sleep apnea. The researchers presented their findings at this year’s American Thoracic Society International Conference.

The study followed 132 stroke patients over 10 years. Sleep apnea occurs frequently among stroke patients: of the patients included in the study, 23 had OSA and 28 had central sleep apnea. Results were independent of age, gender, smoking, body-mass index, hypertension, diabetes, and other factors.

Those with an obstructive apnea-hypoapnea index of 15 or greater were 76% more likely to die earlier. Those with an apnea-hypoapnea index of 10 were also at an increased risk of early death.

“The findings are particularly interesting because obstructive sleep apnea is a treatable condition,” says Karl Franklin, MD, of the University Hospital in Umea, Sweden, lead researcher of the study.

Results of this study highlight the importance of a clinical trial for stroke patients with OSA to see whether treating the sleep disorder will extend their lives.