Sleep apnea doubles stroke risk for men

When my wife used to complain that my snoring was keeping her awake at night I would joke that I didn’t believe that I snored. Then after my primary care doctor sent me to a sleep study – I’d complained to him that I was tired during the day a lot – I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

So, for more than four years I’ve been wearing a mask and night and using a CPAP machine. I no longer snore and I can only blame my daily exhaustion on having a 7-month-old who isn’t the best nighttime sleeper and a three and a half year old to chase around.

Still, I despise having to put on a contraption every night that tethers me to the machine that pushes air into my nose to keep my airway open and effectively treats the sleep apnea. A new study from the National Institutes of Health, however, gives me another reason to put on that mask every night – sleep apnea doubles the risk of stroke in men.

Researchers from the Sleep Heart Health Study reported that risk of stroke increases even for men with mild sleep apnea and raises with increased severity of the disorder. The researchers also reported that there appears to be a link between sleep apnea and stroke in women.

“We now have abundant evidence that sleep apnea is associated with cardiovascular risk factors and diseases,” said Susan Redline, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio and lead author of a study published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on March 25, 2010 that examined the connection between the condition and strokes.

The study reported that 193 of the 5,422 participants in the study suffered strokes and that there was a statistically significant association with sleep apnea in men after adjusting for other cardiovascular risk factors.

National Institutes of Health sleep apnea resources:
•         Sleep Apnea
•         Your Guide to Healthy Sleep
•         Media Availability: Severe Sleep Apnea Tied to Increased Risk of Death -- Landmark Study Provides Strongest Evidence to Date                         
•         Sleep Apnea and Risk for Stroke and Death
•         NHLBI Study Shows Association Between Sleep Apnea and Hypertension