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Sleep apnea may increase cardiovascular risk

Cleveland OH

When we sleep, our blood pressure and heart rate decrease to help protect the heart.

But a new study finds people diagnosed with sleep apnea may not be experiencing these cardio-protective benefits.

Dr. Reena Mehra treats obstructive sleep apnea at Cleveland Clinic and authored the study.

“In sleep apnea, however, because of these bad influences of oxygen levels going down and so forth, we believe your blood pressure doesn’t go down like it normally should. Your heart rate doesn’t go down like it normally should,” said Mehra.

Mehra and a team of researchers studied nearly 300 people with established heart problems.

They found those with sleep apnea were at an increased risk for non-dipping blood pressure and heart rate while they slept.

Mehra said this is important because combining underlying heart problems with sleep apnea may increase cardiovascular risk even more.

“There is a lot of data actually that shows that non-dipping blood pressure profiles puts you at increased risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk for mortality or dying,” said Mehra.

Mehra said more studies are needed, but if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, she recommends getting it treated sooner, rather than later.

“It should be impetus for somebody who has sleep apnea to say ‘I really should look into getting my sleep apnea treated because I’m at increased cardiovascular risk,'” she said.

Complete findings for the study are available online in the “Journal of Hypertension.”