Older adults who have a difficult time sleeping may want to consider discussing their issues with their doctor or home health care provider so they can figure out if the symptoms are due to a serious condition. According to a new study out of the American Thoracic Society, people who have an untreated severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) could be at a higher risk for cardiovascular mortality.
The researchers suggest that one way to lessen the mortality rate in these elderly patients is by treating them with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). The researchers looked at patients who were at least 65 years old and conducted sleep studies with either a respiratory polygraph or a standard polysomnograph.
"Although the link between OSA and cardiovascular mortality is well established in younger patients, evidence on this relationship in the elderly has been conflicting," said lead author Dr. Miguel Ángel Martínez-García, of La Fe University and Polytechnic Hospital in Valencia, Spain. "In our study of 939 elderly patients, severe OSA not treated with CPAP was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality especially from stroke and heart failure, and CPAP treatment reduced this excess of cardiovascular mortality to levels similar to those seen in patients without OSA."
People who had a mild to moderate apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) had a reading of 15 to 29, while severe would have 30 or greater. Patients who were considered below 15 were made the control group. Those who had severe cases of OSA had a higher risk rate for cardiovascular mortality.
"This is the first large-scale study to examine the impact of OSA on cardiovascular mortality in a series including exclusively elderly patients and assess the effectiveness of CPAP treatment in reducing this risk," said Dr. Martínez-García. "Our finding that adequate CPAP treatment is associated with significant reductions in cardiovascular mortality in patients with OSA has important implications, especially given the increasing elderly population."
Cardiovascular problems continue to have a devastating effect on the senior population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in American men and women. Additionally, more than 785,000 Americans have their first heart attack each year, while another 470,000 have had multiple attacks.
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