Severe sleep apnea could damage key blood vessels

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According to the American Heart Association, between 40% and 80% of people with cardiovascular disease also have sleep apnea.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, lapses in breathing and fragmented sleep.

In a study from Foch Hospital in Suresnes, scientists found severe sleep apnea is associated with major changes in key arteries and could speed up vascular aging.

The study sought to shed new light on the link between obstructive sleep apnea and “accelerated vascular aging,” a thickening or stiffening in some blood vessels that causes changes in their function and structure.

Scientists already knew vascular aging plays a big role in heart disease.

However, past evidence was limited when it came to linking sleep apnea and vascular aging.

In the new study, researchers used data from two large European studies for their analysis.

They examined 8,615 people with no history of heart disease and found those with sleep apnea showed marked accelerated aging of their arteries when compared to similar people without obstructive sleep apnea.

For example, adults with sleep apnea had a 214% increased risk of an enlarged carotid diameter, a structural sign of vascular aging.

These findings could explain, in part, why people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of mortality and cardiovascular diseases.

The findings should encourage doctors to be more proactive about testing people with sleep apnea for vascular aging, especially since tests can be done non-invasively and at a low cost.

The team suggests people with sleep apnea to preserve or restore their optimal vascular health by controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, quitting smoking, being physically active, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

They call for future research to see if continuous positive airway pressure machines – also known as CPAPs – can slow or reverse vascular aging and protect against cardiovascular disease.

The devices have been shown to dramatically decrease the risk of heart failure, especially in older adults.

If you care about sleep, please read studies about drug that can treat sleep loss and insomnia, and how to deal with “COVID-somnia” and sleep well at night.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about a new drug that could prevent COVID-19, and results showing common sleep drugs may harm your cognitive functions.

The study was conducted by Quentin Lisan et al and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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