Your Health

Sleep Apnea Raises Risk For Stroke

Attention, ladies and gents with bedmates who habitually snort and snore through the night: High time you prodded your beloved to the go to the doctor or a sleep clinic instead of the couch.

A new report from a large study of men and women with obstructive sleep apnea — a common cause of chronic, noisy snoring — finds that people with the sleep disorder are at a much higher risk of stroke.

snore gallery

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That increased risk is independent of other known stroke triggers such as being overweight, smoking, or having high blood pressure or diabetes.

Previous reports have shown that apnea is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. But this is the strongest evidence yet that stroke, too, should be a worry, and for snoring women as well as men.

The findings in the current issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine comes from the Sleep Heart Health Study. That's a multi-center research project from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that's been tracking the health risks of the breathing problem among people middle-aged and older for nearly a decade.

Men are hardest hit, maybe because they tend to get apnea at an earlier age and the wear and tear is cumulative, the researchers say. In terms of stroke risk, having apnea was like adding 10 years to a man's life.

The question now, says Dr. Susan Shurin, acting head of the NHLBI, is whether treating sleep apnea could prevent strokes. We already know that treatment will give you —and your love — a much better night's sleep.

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