Sleep Apnea Linked to Restricted Blood Supply

Obstructive sleep disorder patients benefit from CPAP

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In addition to interrupted sleep and tossing and turning all night long, people who suffer from sleep apnea my have another thing to worry about. Reduced blood supply to the heart has been linked to the sleep disorder.

The good news is that with continuous use of a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure), blood supply and function can be improved greatly. The CPAP also allows apnea sufferers to get a good night's sleep.

"Use a CPAP machine regularly if you suffer obstructive sleep apnea"

Dr. Gregory Y.H. Lip, MD, led a study at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, which was the first to show blood vessel abnormalities in sleep apnea patients. Lip's research team studied 108 people who were divided into three groups:

  • One-third had moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea without high blood pressure
  • One-third were high blood pressure patients without obstructive sleep apnea
  • One-third had neither high blood pressure nor obstructive sleep apnea

Researched assessed the blood vessel function and blood supply to the heart among all three groups, with no differences between the groups in terms of age, sex, body mass index and smoking status.

“Even apparently healthy patients with sleep apnea show abnormalities of small and large blood vessels, as well as impaired blood supply to the heart muscle," Lip said.

“The findings should change how doctors treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea.”

However, treatment with 26 weeks of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) improved study participants’ blood supply and blood vessel function. Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes periodic pauses in breathing during sleep, affects about 15 million adults in the United States, and many of these already use CPAP machines to regulate breathing during sleep.

In the study, all the sleep apnea patients received CPAP therapy, while none of the control group who did not suffer from sleep apnea did. Therefore, more randomized studies will need to be done, but Lip hopes the research will bring greater awareness to the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular diseases.

Findings were published in the July 2011 issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 28, 2011
Last Updated:
July 30, 2011