FRIDAY, Oct. 12, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Using a mask to deliver continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat people with obstructive sleep apnea dramatically reduces early indications of atherosclerosis -- hardening of the arteries -- within months, a new study finds.
The finding also provides the first evidence of a direct link between obstructive sleep apnea and atherosclerosis, Brazilian researchers say.
The study included 24 men with severe obstructive sleep apnea who were assigned to receive either CPAP or no treatment. The men were then monitored for four months for signs of pre-clinical atherosclerosis.
A significant decrease in atherosclerosis markers was noted among the men who received CPAP but not in those who received no treatment.
Markers measured by the researchers included: carotid intima-media thickness (a measure of arterial plaque); pulse-wave velocity (a measure of arterial stiffness); C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation); and catecholamine level (a marker of physical stress).
"Obstructive sleep apnea is independently associated with increased risk of fatal cardiovascular events that can be reversed by treatment with CPAP," wrote Dr. Luciano Drager, of the University of Sao Paulo Medical School.
Drager and his colleagues said CPAP may reverse several potential pathways whereby obstructive sleep apnea contributes to atherosclerosis.
The study was published in the October issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about sleep apnea.