By definition, sleep apnea is a disorder that leads to continual pauses and disruptions in breathing while sleeping. One of the most common kinds of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder that affects approximately 25 million adults in the United States.
An individual with OSA may experience up to 60 sleep disruptions, or apneas, per hour while resting.
According to new research published in Circulation in October, women who have sleep apnea have higher blood levels of troponin, which marks early evidence of heart injury.
To determine the presence of the gender-based relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital investigated the links among sleep apnea, the early cardiac markers of heart disease, and the occurrence of unfavorable heart outcomes in exactly 1,625 individuals who did not have heart disease when they were first studied. The study then followed these individuals for 14 years.
Specifically, the study looked at women who had already experienced menopause, as they are at greater risk for developing both sleep apnea and heart disease. Ultimately, the research found that when compared to men, these women were at higher risk of developing sleep apnea related heart disease.
At the study’s beginnings, the participants were at an average age of 63; 23% of men and 10% of women were diagnosed with sleep apnea, from moderate to severe. After 14 years had passed, 46% of the men had experienced a significant adverse cardiac event, and 32% of women had experienced the same.
These statistics show that women with sleep apnea were over 30% likely to experience adverse coronary issues. While this relationship proved statistically significant for women, the results were not statistically significant for the men in the study, suggesting that the incidence of adverse heart events later in life could be due to other factors, such as age, obesity, diabetes and hypertension.