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Sleep Apnoea and the Risk of Developing Heart Failure

People who are over 60 and have been diagnosed with sleep apnoea could lessen the threat of enduring heart failure simply by using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask during sleep to aid with breathing.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study explored the link between sleep apnoea and heart failure.  Sleep apnoea  is a condition wherein a person stops breathing from 5 to 30 times per hour during sleep.

Previous scientific researches and studies have indicated that people with untreated obstructive sleep apnoea  (OSA) are at risk of developing comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, arrythmias and heart attack.  This recent study focused on the connection between heart failure and sleep apnoea. Heart failure is not the same as heart attack.  Heart failure is when the heart is not pumping well.  When this occurs, the body receives less oxygen.

Heart Failure Diagram

Among the 4.9 million Danish adults the researchers looked over a 12-year period (2000 -2012), 40,4085 developed sleep apnoea during the course of the study. The researchers found that patients with sleep apnoea who are not undergoing CPAP treatment have a slightly higher risk of developing heart failure, regardless of their age. The study also indicated that   those over 60 are 38% more likely to suffer heart failure than those who use CPAP.

Dr. Anders Holt, the lead author of the study and a researcher with the Department of Cardiology at Copenhagen University, said that there is no denying that people with sleep apnoea are more prone to heart failure than the general population.  Holt expressed that doctors caring for patients with sleep apnoea should pay close attention to observing and treating not only sleep apnoea but other cardiovascular risk factors.

The result of this study was reinforced by Dr. Donna Arnett when she said that the use of CPAP machine is a positive step against the development of heart failure.  Dr. Arnett is currently the dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky.  Though she was not part of the study she believes that there is a great need to educate physicians about the significance of sleep apnoea. She said that the sleep disorder is under-recognized and that patients should be encouraged to get screened.

Dr. Hold admits that the current research was limited due to lack of information about cardiovascular risk factors such as body mass index, smoking and drinking status. He hopes that further studies will be randomized clinical trial.  However, the study supported the efficacy of CPAP therapy in decreasing the threat of developing heart failure for sleep apnoea patients, and underscored the benefits of CPAP therapy for patients with known heart failure.

The study highlights the importance of helping patients with sleep apnoea to adjust to sleeping while undergoing CPAP therapy. It is true that sleeping with a CPAP mask is quite uncomfortable what with possible facial irritation and nasal dryness. But, with constant use, people do get used to it. When choosing a CPAP device and mask, it is best to consult with a qualified healthcare provider or CPAP machine supplier such as CPAP Victoria.

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