Researchers and physicians alike have long known that not treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause a number of heart-related health issues. However, a recent study utilizing MRI technology has uncovered additional details about this correlation. And it has also found a higher risk for women when it comes to OSA and heart disease.
The Radiological Society of North America and the University of Munich in Germany conducted this study. It examined more than 4,000 people who did not have prior heart issues.
From these 4,000 otherwise healthy individuals, the researchers asked the participants to report if they:
From there, the researchers examined MRI scans of the 4,000 people, whose information was acquired from the UK Biobank – an international collection of data that tracks the health of more than half a million people worldwide. Based on both the self-reporting data as well as the MRI scans, the researchers were able to pinpoint the correlation between OSA and an increased risk for heart disease.
When looking at the data, the link of these two health problems basically boiled down to the physical make-up of the heart.
Essentially, people who have obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have enlarged walls in the heart’s left ventricle. This is the chamber of the heart that works to pump blood throughout the body. When these walls are enlarged, the heart has to work even harder to function. This then leads to a higher risk for heart disease.
Doctors have linked OSA and issues with the left ventricle of the heart for some time, but this recent study was one of the most detailed examinations to track this dysfunction in real time through MRI data.
Both men and women who had OSA both showed noticeable problems, known as “left ventricular dysfunction”.
But it was the women who showed a significant difference in comparison to individuals who did not have sleep apnea, and who did not snore. From this data, the researchers believed that women are likely to develop heart-related issues faster than men.
Of course, the best thing that all people can do to reduce their risk for heart disease is to treat their obstructive sleep apnea as soon as possible.
In addition, doctors and researchers examining the data had the following advice. OSA sufferers – especially women – should take additional steps to mitigate their risk for heart issues. These steps include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising, curbing alcohol consumption, and quit smoking.
Obstructive sleep apnea is now studied in more detail, and researchers are discovering new information all the time. Their studies are painting a clearer picture of just how much OSA can affect your health overall.
If you might have sleep apnea, it’s time to get help. Contact us to see how we can get you started on sleeping and feeling great.