New research links sleep apnea and stroke in both men -- and for the first time -- women. Results of the nationwide Sleep Heart Health Study show a man's risk of stroke rises with the severity of his sleep apnea, with severe sleep apnea tripling a man's risk of stroke compared to men with no or moderate sleep apnea.
Study results also reveal that while the link between sleep apnea and stroke is stronger in men, women with severe types of sleep apnea are also at increased risk of the life-threatening event.
The Sleep Heart Health Study followed 5,422 participants aged 40 or older with no history of stroke for nine years. During the study, 193 participants had a stroke: 85 men out of 2,462 enrolled and 108 women out of 2,960 enrolled.
"Our findings provide compelling evidence that obstructive sleep apnea is a risk factor for stroke, especially in men," Susan Redline, M.D., MPH, professor of medicine, pediatrics, and epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and lead author of the study, was quoted as saying. "Overall, the increased risk of stroke in men with sleep apnea is comparable to adding 10 years to a man's age. Importantly, we found that increased stroke risk in men occurs even with relatively mild levels of sleep apnea."
Stroke is the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide, and more than 12 million American adults are reported to have sleep apnea.
Source: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, April 8, 2010
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