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Obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease

CHÉOS Scientist Dr. Najib Ayas presented his research suggesting a causal link between untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and cardiovascular disease at the Heart and Lung Institute’s scientific symposium on March 9.

OSA is a common medical disorder that affects five to ten per cent of adults. It is characterized by a recurrent collapse of the upper airway during sleep. This collapse makes it difficult for the person to breathe, causes low oxygen levels, and causes the individual to awaken from sleep multiple times a night.

Risk factors of OSA include obesity, male gender, and increased age. Dr. Ayas says that many epidemiological studies have shown that OSA is also strongly and independently associated with cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease, and basic studies have demonstrated a pathophysiologic link between the two ailments.

Dr. Ayas says that although accumulating data implicate OSA as a cause of cardiovascular disease, the mechanisms by which this happens are unclear. At the scientific symposium he called for more and larger observational and randomized controlled trials to explore this issue.

Health research in the heart of Vancouver