American Heart Association

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Obstructive sleep apnoea may cause changes in blood vessel function that reduces blood supply to the heart in people who are otherwise healthy, according to a study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

However, treatment with 26 weeks of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) improved study participants’ blood supply and function.

“The findings should change how doctors treat patients with obstructive sleep apnoea,” said lead author Gregory Y.H. Lip, MD, Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. “Even apparently healthy patients with sleep apnoea show abnormalities of small and large blood vessels, as well as impaired blood supply to the heart muscle, and these can improve with CPAP therapy.”

The study is the first to show blood vessel abnormalities in patients with sleep apnoea. Previous studies have linked blood vessel dysfunction to cardiovascular disorders.

Reversing blood vessel abnormalities could help patients with obstructive sleep apnoea who are otherwise healthy avoid developing and dying from cardiovascular disorders, researchers said.

For the study, Dr. Lip and colleagues looked for changes in blood vessel function in 108 participants who were otherwise healthy, with no differences in age, sex, body mass index, and smoking status.

Of the patients, 36 people had moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnoea without high blood pressure, 36 had high blood pressure without obstructive sleep apnoea, and 36 individuals without high blood pressure or obstructive sleep apnoea.

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