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Sleep Apnea Cardiovascular Link Needs More Research

Scientific statement emphasizes importance of establishing consensus concerning best practice

MONDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the link between sleep-disordered breathing and cardiovascular disease, more research is needed to explain how these two conditions interact so that sleep medicine specialists and cardiologists can develop a consensus concerning best practice, according to an American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Foundation scientific statement published online July 28 in Circulation.

Virend K. Somers, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues discussed the prevalence of different types of sleep apnea and how such conditions may affect patients who are at risk for cardiovascular disease or have it. They also discussed the mechanisms by which sleep apnea may contribute to the progression cardiovascular disease.

The researchers identified five challenges: an absence of structured sleep medicine education in cardiovascular training programs, logistic and economic obstacles in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, comorbidities that confound the relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease, device-based treatment options that patients often find intolerable and an absence of robust longitudinal interventional studies showing whether sleep apnea treatments confer benefits in terms of cardiovascular events.

"Recognition that a multidisciplinary strategy is critical to appropriate evaluation of sleep-related disease and heightened interaction between specialists in cardiovascular and sleep medicine hold promise for future improved and integrated patient care," the authors write. "In the meantime, the relative lack of definitive outcomes data to guide clinical practice necessitates a highly individualized approach to evaluation and management of those patients with comorbid cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea."

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