March 16, 2007

Cardiovascular disease can pose a threat to both men and women. While a diet rich in fat and high in cholesterol, as well as lack of exercise, can contribute to cardiovascular disease, a study published in the March 1st issue of the journal SLEEP finds that people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are at an increased risk of having cardiovascular disease.

The study, which attributes the increased link between OSA and cardiovascular disease to heightened recognition and perhaps a rising prevalence, found mounting data suggesting a potentially important causative role of OSA in cardiovascular disease, particularly systemic hypertension, bolstered by well-described pathophysiologic responses to apnea and hypopneas. Recently published longitudinal cohort studies have strengthened previously recognized associations with stroke and mortality from cardiac events.

“There is abundant physiologic evidence implicating OSA in perpetuating, if not inciting, heart failure. In addition to their association with systemic hypertension, OSA-related stressors, including hypoxemia, increased sympathetic drive, acute surges in blood pressure, and mechanical effects of intrathoracic pressure swings, have varying effects on myocardial oxygen supply and demand, particularly in the already compromised heart,” said Sean M. Caples, DO, of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., one of the authors of the study.