Sleep Apnea Linked to Risk of Stroke

Have you noticed a family member snoring heavily or breathing irregularly while asleep? If so, he or she could have obstructed sleep apnea, which is now known to increase the risk of stroke. More than 12 million American adults are believed to have obstructed sleep apnea. Blocked airways cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses during sleep. The pauses are sometimes followed by a loud snort or choking sound before normal breathing resumes. 

A study by the National Institutes of Health showed that middle-aged men with sleep apnea are more likely to suffer a stroke, the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide. More than 5,000 participants, age 40 or older, with no history of stroke were included in the study. Over 9 years, the men with mild sleep apnea were more likely to have a stroke. Men with moderate to severe sleep apnea were three times more likely to have a stroke. Interestingly, women were only at significant increased risk of stroke if they had severe sleep apnea.

The results were independent of other risk factors such as weight, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. The difference between the sexes may be due to men developing sleep apnea at an earlier age and having it untreated for longer periods. This is the largest study ever conducted to link sleep apnea with increased risk of stroke. Now the question is whether treating sleep apnea can prevent or delay stroke. Treatment can involve surgery or breathing devices. Not drinking alcohol before bed, avoiding sleeping on your back, and weight loss can also help alleviate symptoms.

Getting enough sleep is critical to quality of life and daily performance. If you’re tired of the sleepiness or the snoring, maybe it’s time to check your Snore Score and talk to your doctor.

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