Dr. Joseph M. Perlman Advanced Plastic Surgery Centre

According to a new study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, obstructive sleep apnea can cause a diminished flow of blood to the heart due to the changes it can cause in the blood vessel function.

Obstructive sleep apnea involves periodic breathing pauses during sleep. According to the American Heart Association, this sleeping disorder affects nearly 15 million people and is a risk factor for heart disease and high blood pressure.

The researchers examined the blood vessel functions of 108 healthy patients. Divided into groups of 36 members, the group was segregated accordingly:

All patients with sleep apnea underwent C-PAP therapy—a procedure that helps prevent sleep apnea and breathing pauses by providing a free and unobstructed airway. Addressing these blood vessel irregularities in patients with sleep apnea can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, the researchers say.

Lead researcher Gregory Y.H. Lip, MD, of the University of Birmingham in the U.K. says, “Even apparently healthy patients with sleep apnea show abnormalities of small and large blood vessels as well as impaired blood supply to the heart muscle, and these can improve with C-PAP [continuous positive airway pressure] therapy.”

“The condition can be treated and it is important that clinicians look out for it,” Dr. Lip hopes that this endeavor will bring awareness to the link between obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease.