Thu Aug 3, 6:33 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Elderly people who have severe sleep apnea are at more than double the risk of having a stroke, even after accounting for other known risk factors for stroke, according to a new report.
Sleep apnea occurs when breathing is briefly but frequently blocked while someone is sleeping. Loud, abrupt snoring is often a sign that this is happening.
In a number of studies, sleep apnea has shown to be related to stroke, Dr. Roberto Munoz, from Hospital de Navarra in Spain, and colleagues note in the medical journal Stroke. However, elderly subjects have largely been excluded from these studies.
To investigate the association in older individuals, the researchers followed a population-based group of 394 people between 70 and 100 years of age. At the start of the 6-year investigation, the subjects were free of stroke.
During follow-up, 20 strokes occurred, the report indicates. After adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, and several other known risk factors, the presence of severe sleep apnea at the outset of the study raised the risk of having a stroke by 2.5-fold.
In light of these findings, the investigators suggest that a trial should look into treating this patient population with continuous positive airway pressure, to reduce the occurrence of sleep apnea and perhaps the risk of stroke.
SOURCE: Stroke, September 2006.