Less Sleep, Greater Risk

Individuals who survive strokes, especially those who are Mexican American and are living with sleep apnea, have a higher risk of dying from or experiencing another stroke, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which affected individuals experience repeated breathing interruptions during sleep. The condition is estimated to affect around 22 million individuals, many of whom are undiagnosed.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the muscles of the throat relax and block the airway.

The study, presented in 2018, analyzed the connection between sleep apnea and recurrent stroke or death among large, population-based or ethnically diverse populations. Named ‘Brain Attack Surveillance,’ the study had 842 participants; the median age was 65, and 47 percent of the participants were female.

Fifty-eight percent of the participants were Mexican American, and 34 percent were non-Hispanic whites who had an ischemic stroke caused by decreased blood supply between 2010 and 2015.

During the study, the participants wore portable sleep apnea-monitoring devices to monitor breathing interruptions, and researchers found that among the group, there was a median of 14 full or partial pauses in breathing per hour during sleep.

Sixty-three percent of the participants had more than 10 breathing pauses per hour.

The researchers followed up with participants during a median time of 584 days and found that 10.7 percent experienced another stroke. Nearly 15 percent (14.8) died.

The study authors also found that for each additional pause in breathing per hour, there was a 9 percent greater chance of death or having another stroke.

‘Sleep apnea is a serious health condition and has been linked to an increase in serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes,’ said Dr. Richard Armstrong of Legends Dental in Waco, Texas.

The condition has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive conditions.

The researchers also found that participants with Mexican-American ethnicity were almost twice as likely to die or experience recurrent stroke.

The findings from the study are significant, as sleep apnea can be treated to reduce or mitigate the risk of stroke, Armstrong said. The researchers on this project believe their research could improve the health of those living with sleep apnea.

The National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Source: American Heart Association. ‘Sleep apnea after stroke heightens risk of another stroke, death.’ ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2018.