Good Evidence Linking Sleep Apnoea and Silent Strokes

German researchers have linked sleep apnoea to an increased risk of symptomless but dangerous “silent strokes”. There hasn’t been much research exploring the relationship between sleep apnoea and silent strokes, says researcher Jessica Kepplinger, MD, of Dresden University Stroke Center at the University of Technology in Dresden, Germany.

So, Kepplinger and colleagues studied 56 men and women, aged 44 to 75 years, who’d had a stroke or mini-stroke known as a transient ischemic attack. All were given a screening tool that picks up changes in breathing during sleep. Ninety-one percent periodically stopped breathing while they slept.

Then the men and women underwent brain imaging scans. Just over half had little areas of tissue death in the brain that had occurred in the past without a history of corresponding stroke symptoms – evidence of silent stroke. The more times a person stopped breathing during the night, the greater the likelihood of silent stroke, Kepplinger says.

There was no comparison group, so researchers don’t know how many people of the same ages and health status who don’t have sleep apnoea have had silent strokes.

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