Severe Sleep Apnea – A Greater Risk of Death

Obstructive sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder, however cases of severe sleep apnea appear to have greater chances of inducing sooner deaths (especially in the case of middle-aged and senior men). Over the past few years, an increasing percentage of people have been developing this condition. Severe sleep apnea is a host to serious health problems, such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and accidents. In the long-term, the overall population-based data of mortality has been lacking in numbers.

Severe Sleep Apnea – Studies/Research

A recently published 15 year long study followed 6,441 women and men, both of which were mixed with people having sleep apnea and those that did not. A study on heart health was carried out on the subjects to see if there was a correlation between sleep apnea and the risk of increased deaths.

During the study, the subjects were followed up after around eight years. It was seen that 1,047 of the subjects had died. After investigations on race, age, BMI (body mass index) and smoking, it was found that men with ages of 40 to 70, suffering of severe sleep apnea had a higher risk of dying from any cause as compared to those not suffering of sleep apnea. Subjects in other groups of gender, age and apnea severity did not show signs of significant increase in the risk of death. However, this does not mean that women are not at risk. During the study, not enough women died or were ill enough to make a statistical connection, but the study is still being followed up.

Severe Sleep Apnea – Findings

The findings of the study did not come as a surprise to the research community. It has been believed for a long time, that severe sleep apnea increases the rate of death because of the likelihood of such patients having high cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It is still not known for sure whether sleep apnea is the cause of these diseases. Many people suffering of severe sleep apnea have been men of older ages and heavy weight, which are life threatening illnesses on their own. This makes it harder to conclude whether the men were older or overweight because of sleep apnea.

The research has not been able to fill in the data as yet though, because the cohort is not of patients. It is of normal people from which people who sought treatment for sleep apnea were excluded. Researchers look forward to formal clinical trials in which methods of treatment and intervention can be tested to see if the risk of mortality can be brought in check. One thing known for sure is that treating sleep apnea also makes blood pressure better (though not vastly better). In terms of diseases that are more fatal to life are heart diseases, which make linking severe sleep apnea a crucial research.

Those having sleep apnea often suffer from excessive sleepiness during normal waking hours of the day. This makes it very dangerous for patients to make it through the day without accidents, especially when driving or flying. For example, pilots suffering from sleep apnea are likely to fall asleep during flights, which ofcourse will be as dangerous as it sounds. Undiagnosed severe sleep apnea is truly life threatening.

A Three Times Higher Risk of Death In Undiagnosed Severe Sleep Apnea

Suffering from chronic sleep apnea do much more harm than just destroying a night’s sleep. Another recent study shows that people suffering of severe sleep apnea are possibly three times more likely of dying prematurely. This risk increases if the condition is left undiagnosed.

In the study carried out, researchers followed up more than 1,500 people (adults) for 18 years. These people were screened for sleep apnea at the start of the study. The results showed that around 19% of the people suffering of sleep apnea had died during the research follow-ups, out of which only 4% of people were without sleep apnea.

Further, it was found out that the risk of premature deaths increased as the severity of the sleep apnea condition increased. However, the findings suggested that proper treatment of severe sleep apnea can help protect from the risk of deaths occurring prematurely. For example, treating sleep apnea with CPAP to keep the airways clean and open while people sleep would prevent pauses in breathing. Therefore, reducing the chances of death occurring due to a lack of oxygen contained in the body.

During the research, when people who used CPAP treatment regularly were excluded from the analysis, the risk of death was increased to 3.8 times more than those with untreated sleep apnea. The research findings suggest (but do not prove) that people diagnosed to have sleep apnea should be treated accordingly. If the prescribed treatment for severe sleep apnea is CPAP, then the regular use of CPAP may likely prevent the occurrence of premature deaths.