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Another study confirms that obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of death

Filed in
  • CPAP
  • mortality
  • Sleep apnea

Sleep Education Archive  |  Aug 18, 2009
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A new study provides strong evidence that severe obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of death. 

The study involved a community sample of 6,441 people who were 40 years of age or older. Their sleep was evaluated with a portable-monitoring system during one night of home sleep testing. An apnea-hypopnea index was calculated for each person. The AHI represents the average number of times you stop breathing per hour of sleep.

People were grouped according to the severity of their sleep apnea. An AHI of 30 or more breathing pauses per hour of sleep was considered severe OSA; an AHI of 15 to less than 30 represented moderate sleep apnea; people with an AHI of 5 to less than 15 had mild OSA.

The health status of participants was monitored during a follow-up period of about eight years. During this time 1,047 participants died; 587 of them were men and 460 were women.

Data analysis shows that the people with severe OSA were 46 percent more likely to die than those who did not have OSA. The risk of death in people with moderate OSA was increased by 17 percent.

The risk of death was even higher in men between the ages of 40 and 70; those with severe OSA were two times more likely to die than men their age who did not have OSA.

The study was published today in the online journal PLoS Medicine.

“Our study results really raise concern about the potentially harmful effects of sleep apnea,” principal investigator Dr. Naresh Punjabi said in a Johns Hopkins statement. “Such an increased risk of death warrants screening for sleep apnea as part of routine health care.”

Eight percent of men and three percent of women in the study had severe OSA. High blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease were more common in people with moderate to severe OSA.

Last year a study in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Sleep reported similar findings. That study involved 1,522 participants; they were between 30 and 60 years old when the study began. Their sleep was evaluated during anovernight sleep study in a sleep lab at a clinical research center. 

Their health status was monitored during an 18-year follow-up period. Results show that people with severe sleep apnea were three times more likely to die. The study also suggested that treating sleep apnea with regular CPAP use may prevent premature death.