Study Connects Breathing and Heart Problems

Published Online: Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Individuals with atrial fibrillation are more likely to have sleep apnea syndrome (SAS), concluded the authors of a study reported in Chest (April 2004).Yet, it is still unclear whether the rate of SAS in these people is any greater, compared with the rate in healthy individuals.

Although several studies have found that SAS predisposes patients to heart rhythm problems, the rate of SAS in specific conditions has not been determined. The researchers, in this new study, evaluated the rate of SAS in 115 participants (59 with atrial fibrillation and 56 with no heart problems). The average age of all the patients was 59 years.

The results showed that 32% of the patients with atrial fibrillation and 29% of those in the control group had SAS. Also, the participants in the atrial fibrillation group had bigger necks (a well-known risk factor for SAS), compared with men in the healthy group. Furthermore, patients in the atrial fibrillation group had more severe SAS symptoms, such as daytime tiredness and nightly breathing pauses. The researchers believe that further study is warranted.

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