Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and a significant public health burden.1 Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has been identified as a modifiable risk factor for stroke.2 Research by Yale University found that OSA more than doubles the risk of stroke or death in patients over the age of 50.3 Recent research has demonstrated that treatment of OSA with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can reduce the risk of stroke.4 A Yale University study of 1022 patients over the age of 50 found that patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) had 2-3 times the risk of stroke or death when compared to control patients.3 This increased risk of disease and death was shown to be associated with the severity of OSA. Therefore the worse your sleep apnea is, the more likely a stroke will occur. The association between stroke and OSA was shown to be independent of other risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. This research highlights yet another harmful ailment associated with untreated OSA.
Research from Minoguchi et al4 studied precursors of brain disease and found that patients who suffered from OSA had increased levels of inflammatory markers which indicate damage to the brain tissue. Damage to the brain tissue or blood vessels within the brain is associated with an increased risk of stroke.
However, the use of CPAP for three months significantly lowered levels of several inflammatory markers associated with brain disease. The authors conclude that CPAP treatment is an important intervention for decreasing the risk of brain disease and subsequently stroke in OSA patients.
- Murray C, Lopez A. Mortality by cause for eight regions of the world: Global burden of disease study. Lancet 1997; 349:1269-1276
- American Stroke Association. New guidelines offer power to prevent stroke. Stroke Journal Report 2006
- Yaggi K, Concato J, Kernan W, et al. Obstructive sleep apnea as a risk factor for stroke and death. The New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 335:2034-2041
- Minoguchi K, Yokoe T, Tazaki T, et al. Silent brain infarction and platelet activation in obstructive sleep apnea. American Journal Respiratory Critical Care Medicine 2007; 175:612-617