Study: faster hearts reduce apneas

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Thursday, February 28, 2002

BOSTON - Faster heart rates caused by pacemakers can help relive apneas, lending credence to the belief that while apneas can affect the heart, the heart can also affect apneas, according to a team of French doctors.

The findings were reported in the February 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The French team studied 15 heart patients who showed symptoms of sleep apnea.

Pacemakers kick in when the heart slips below a certain number of beats per minute. For the study, the researchers increased that number by 15 beats per minute. In that overdrive setting, the patients' hearts would turn on the pacemakers when the rate dropped to around 70 beats a minute.

On the overdrive setting, the average hourly number of nighttime apneas dropped 61%, from 28 to 11. Researchers suggested that faster the hearts may stimulate various nerves, which then prompt the brain to normalize breathing. HME

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