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Experts Urge Research on Sleep Apnea-Heart Disease Link

With obesity rising, troubled nighttime breathing will become even bigger problem, AHA warns

MONDAY, July 28, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Large-scale studies should be conducted to determine the exact link between sleep apnea and heart disease, says a joint statement from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

The statement was published in the journal Circulation.

"There have been a number of studies on sleep apnea in the last decade, and those looking at cardiovascular diseases and their associations with sleep apnea are especially compelling," Dr. Virend K. Somers, chairman of the joint statement writing committee, said in an AHA/ACC news release.

"We feel it is important to alert the cardiovascular community to the implications of this emerging area of research. It is possible that diagnosing and treating sleep apnea may prove to be an important opportunity to advance our efforts at preventing and treating heart disease," said Somers, a professor of medicine and cardiovascular diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The committee issued the statement because of increasing evidence of an association between sleep apnea and heart disease, the widespread prevalence of sleep apnea, and rising levels of obesity in the United States, particularly among young people.

Obesity is a major cause of sleep apnea, and "the epidemic of childhood obesity may be changing the epidemiology of obstructive sleep apnea in children," Somers said.

"We need to more clearly define the cause and effect relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular diseases and risk factors," he noted. "There is evidence that sleep apnea may be a cause of some cases of high blood pressure, but for other cardiovascular conditions, the evidence is largely circumstantial."

"Until we know the cause-and-effect relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease, it would be best to take a two-pronged approach and treat patients from both perspectives: In other words, treat both their sleep apnea and their cardiovascular disease," Somers said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about sleep apnea.

SOURCE: American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology, news release, July 28, 2008
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