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A Brazilian study found that some healthy middle-aged individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) showed early indicators of artery disease. The researchers measured markers of premature atherosclerosis in 42 patients (30 with untreated OSA and 12 healthy participants). None of the participants had previous evidence of heart disease.
Reporting in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (September 1, 2005), the researchers said that measurements of early atherosclerosis leaned toward a direct correlation with the severity of sleep apnea. The results of the study showed that a parameter reflecting artery stiffness was considerably higher among the patients with severe sleep apnea, compared with patients with milder sleep apnea and patients with no sleep disorders. The same results were found for the thickness of the artery walls.
The researchers are currently conducting a randomized study with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to examine the impact on these signs of atherosclerosis. The researchers hope that the study will underscore greater use of CPAP in patients with OSA.