Study: Men 20-29 most at risk for sleep apnea
February 28, 2005
YARMOUTH, Maine - Â According to a new study, men aged 20 to 29 with severe sleep apnea have 10 times the risk of dying from heart related ailments than their non-sleep apnea peers, and even have a higher risk than older men with sleep apnea.
The study, which was carried out by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, was based on 15,000 men, the largest population of sleep apnea patients ever studies. The researchers compared the risk of dying for men with severe sleep apnea - having at least 50 breathing stops per hour - with the general population. The findings appear in the March 2005 European Respiratory Journal.
The Technion study also showed that men aged 30 to 39 have three times the risk of dying, while those in their forties have twice the risk. But those aged 50 or older don't have a higher risk of dying than the same age group in the general population, according to the report.
"We were surprised to find a sharp decline in the risk of dying after age 50," lead researcher Professor Peretz Lavie of the Lloyd Rigler Sleep Apnea Research Laboratory at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology told an Israeli publication.
"Older patients have more risk factors, especially cardiac ones, so we expected relative mortality to increase with age," he added.. "The fact that they don't suggests that patients with sleep apnea develop a mechanism, as yet unknown, that protects their cardiovascular system."
In light of these findings, researchers recommended a change in sleep apnea testing guidelines. They believe screenings should be conducted not only for young people with sleep apnea symptoms, but also for other groups known to have a high prevalence of sleep apnea - even if they do not have characteristic symptoms. These include the people who are overweight, those with developed hypertension at a young age or children of sleep apnea sufferers. Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea at an early age, he says, would lower fatalities.