prospective, observational cohort study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine just last month in which the authors followed 1,116 women who had undergone a diagnostic sleep study (yes, ladies, some of you snore!). Those who had an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of less than 10 were deemed normal and served as controls. Those with an AHI of 10-29 were classified as mild-moderate while those w/AHI greater than or equal to 30 were diagnosed as severe sleep apnea. AHI is a standardized measure of how many times in an hour one has an apneic or hypopneic event. |
Currently, the gold standard for treatment of sleep apnea, regardless of sex, is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) , which conjures up images of a loud, obnoxious octopus-like mask that really isn't sexy or romantic, although in reality, the newest devices & masks are much more tolerable. Adherence to CPAP was deemed usage of at least 4 hours nightly; non-adherence was either less than 4 hours use or no use at all.
Granted, the average age of these women were in their mid-50s, with average body mass index diagnostic for obesity. Yet, those women with sleep apnea, regardless of severity, had a greater cardiovascular mortality over 6 years than their non-apneic controls. Likewise, those women with sleep apnea who were adherent to their CPAP had lower cardiovascular mortality compared to those who were not adherent.
The bottom line is this: what's good/bad for the gander is also good/bad for the goose. We've known for quite some time now that sleep apnea increases risk of heart disease in men. This study demonstrates a similar association in women. Moreover, we also now have evidence for the protective effect of adequate CPAP use (at least 4 hours nightly) in reducing heart disease. Go wear some red today and tell the women in your lives.