The study involved 529 men and 207 women with OSA. The severity of their sleep apnea varied widely.
Their average apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) ranged from five to 197 breathing pauses per hour of sleep; the mean AHI was 36. An AHI of more than 30 is considered “severe” OSA.
Participants with sleep apnea were compared with a control group; it comprised 154 men and 161 women who did not have OSA.
Results show that the odds of high blood pressure increased with increasing AHI; the risk also rose with increasing age and average body mass index (BMI). Among the most obese subjects, men were almost twice as likely as women to have high blood pressure.
The NHLBI reports that about one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. It can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of the body. Another name for high blood pressure is “hypertension.”
High blood pressure is treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. Lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and quitting smoking. Most people with high blood pressure will need lifelong treatment.
In 2008 a scientific statement reported that about 30 percent of people with high blood pressure also have sleep apnea. According to the AASM, OSA occurs when the muscles relax during sleep. As a result soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the upper airway. Breathing pauses can last from 10 seconds to a minute or longer.
These pauses can produce a severe drop in oxygen levels; they also can cause blood pressure to soar.
The AASM recommends CPAP therapy as the treatment of choice for mild, moderate and severe OSA. Research shows that CPAP can reduce blood pressure in people with sleep apnea.
Learn more about how CPAP helps the heart on SleepEducation.com.
Get help for sleep apnea at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.