Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure
Recent research has brought to light a link between using a CPAP machine for treating obstructive sleep apnea and its cutting down high blood pressure, a serious risk associated with the condition.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by obstruction of the upper airway and characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. This can result in low oxygen levels in the blood and is a common cause of snoring and daytime drowsiness and fatigue. Estimates go as high as 17 percent of US adults that suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure:
Research in Spain looked at the number of new cases of high blood pressure in two groups with sleep apnea who used the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy for four (1 group) or eleven (the second group) years. CPAP uses a mask to help push air into the lungs while you sleep and is the most common form of sleep apnea treatment. The CPAP machine has generally worked better as a treatment for sleep apnea than such alternatives as surgery or mouth devices.
The impact of CPAP Therapy:
Both studies found that people who used the CPAP therapy for at least four hours a night had lower rates of developing high blood pressure compared to those who did not use a CPAP machine for therapy, or who used it less frequently. Using the machine for at least four hours a night is considered the minimum amount of time to receive its benefits.
Research found that the patients with sleep apnea who used the CPAP machines were 29 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure during the study than those who did not use the machine (the control group).
Additional aspects of the study found additional evidence to support the idea that the CPAP machine use for the sleep apnea sufferers contributed to lower levels of high blood pressure, though it is pointed out that some of the analysis could be open to bias and that while there appears to be an association between the CPAP use and high blood pressure, it did not prove a cause and effect relationship.
While the CPAP machine has been the most effective treatment, the downside of the CPAP machine therapy is that the machines mask is bulky and some users find it difficult to sleep, while another effect is that the machine makes noise while in use and can keep the users partner awake.
Other health issues from Sleep Apnea:
The reduction in high blood pressure risk can also help reduce the risk of such other diseases as stroke, cardiovascular events, and heart failure- another disease whose risk increases in those suffering from sleep apnea.
For more information on Sleep Apnea, check out the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.