CPAP use may reduce mortality risk from sleep apnea-related heart disease.

CPAP use may reduce mortality risk from sleep apnea-related heart disease.

CPAP Machines: A Life-Saving Remedy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

CPAP Machine

About 936 million people globally have mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea. People with obstructive sleep apnea are at a higher risk for other diseases, including cardiovascular disease. New research found people with obstructive sleep apnea may be able to reduce their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease if they use a CPAP machine at night. Another new study says a CPAP may work better than a weight loss drug in reducing plaque buildup in the arteries around the heart in people with obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects nearly a billion individuals worldwide. It occurs when a person’s airway becomes obstructed during sleep, causing breathing to become difficult or even stop altogether. Previous research has shown that people with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing other diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease. But two recent studies presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress shed new light on the connection between obstructive sleep apnea and heart health.

Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type and occurs when a physical obstruction, such as the tongue, hampers breathing. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, is caused by a brief signaling interruption between the brain and respiratory muscles. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, momentary pauses in breathing, insomnia or restless sleep, constant tiredness, headaches, and mood changes. The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This device consists of a mask worn over the nose and mouth, connected to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air to keep the airways open and prevent breathing interruptions.

While CPAP therapy is the most common treatment, other options include medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes such as weight management and maintaining good sleep hygiene.

Sleep Apnea’s Impact on Heart Disease Risk

Numerous studies have established a strong link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular diseases, including atrial fibrillation, stroke, heart attack, coronary artery disease, hypertension, and congestive heart failure. Each night, a person with obstructive sleep apnea may experience anywhere from five to 30 breathing interruptions per hour, depending on the severity of the condition. These interruptions cause oxygen levels in the body to drop, leading to increased stress and adrenaline production. High levels of adrenaline can elevate blood pressure, posing a risk to blood vessels and potentially causing heart-related issues.

Previous research has demonstrated that using a CPAP machine for obstructive sleep apnea can lower the risk of fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events. Furthermore, older adults with sleep apnea who use a CPAP machine can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease events.

The Impact of CPAP Therapy on Heart Disease Mortality Risk

A study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress aimed to examine the effect of CPAP treatment on major cardiovascular events in real-world patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Led by Dr. Jordi de Batlle, a researcher at the Institut de Recerca Biomèdica de Lleida in Spain, the study involved analyzing data from over 3,600 individuals with sleep apnea, comparing those who continued CPAP therapy with those who discontinued it.

The results were striking. Participants who continued using CPAP therapy experienced a 40% lower risk of all-cause mortality, a 36% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and an 18% decreased risk of hospitalization due to cardiovascular disease. These findings provide further evidence of CPAP’s potential to prevent cardiovascular complications associated with obstructive sleep apnea.

CPAP’s Effect on Arterial Plaque

The second study examined the impact of CPAP therapy on coronary artery plaque volume in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea. For this pilot study, researchers analyzed computed tomography (CT) coronary angiogram scans of 30 participants to detect any signs of narrowed blood vessels supplying the heart. The participants were then randomly assigned either a CPAP machine or injections of the weight loss drug liraglutide (Victoza) for 24 weeks.

Analyzing the results, the researchers discovered that both the participants who received CPAP therapy alone and those who received CPAP therapy along with weight loss drug injections experienced reductions in arterial plaque buildup. Additionally, both groups exhibited reduced inflammation in their aortas. Notably, participants receiving only the weight loss drug did not achieve the same effects.

Dr. Cliona O’Donnell, the lead author of the study and a specialist registrar in respiratory medicine, commented on the results. She explained that people with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing arterial plaque due to significant fluctuations in blood oxygen levels during nighttime, leading to fragmented sleep and increased inflammation. While larger studies are needed to confirm these preliminary findings, the results suggest that early use of CPAP therapy may provide benefits in reducing cardiovascular risk.

The Need for Further Research on Sleep Apnea

Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program, emphasizes the importance of these two studies. The connection between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease has long been recognized. However, the mechanisms behind this connection are complex and require more extensive research. Dr. Chen highlights the need to replicate these studies in different regions and expand the scope of the research in order to obtain comprehensive insights applicable to a global population.

In conclusion, obstructive sleep apnea poses significant risks to cardiovascular health. However, the use of CPAP machines provides a life-saving remedy. By keeping the airways open and uninterrupted during sleep, CPAP therapy mitigates the harmful effects of sleep apnea, reducing the risk of cardiovascular events and improving overall heart health. While further research is still necessary, these recent studies demonstrate the critical role of CPAP machines in preventing cardiovascular complications and highlight the potential benefits of early intervention.